x86's Days as a Consumer Microarchitecture are Numbered

The big news today is AMD is ending the x86 wars! This is huge, but the writing has been on the wall for a while. It is further confirmation of trend I've been thinking about lately. The future of the CPU is a battle between the ARM vendors (TI/Nivida/Qualcomn/Samsung/AMD/Apple) and Intel. Intel knows this and is scared. AMD hasn't been a real threat since Intel debuted the Core architecture 5 years ago.

The beauty of the ARM ecosystem is that the vendors are forced to compete with each other on price, performance, and advanced features. ARM CPUs have been advancing at a rate we haven't seen in the desktop space for 10 years. If Intel continues to fail to produce power efficient mobile processors and ARM continues its march towards laptop performance at smartphone battery consumption, x86's days as a consumer processor architecture are numbered.

It's really not hard to fathom. Few will be surprised if OS X goes ARM next year or soon after. Apple likes to control the entire computer stack, and the A5 line of processors proves Apple can execute on fantastic CPU design. A Macbook Air with an A6 would have double the battery life of today's model.

We've already seen hybrid smartphones/laptops from Motorola (The Atrix laptop dock) and hybrid tablets (Asus EeePad Transformer). These products may be slightly premature given the speed of typical ARM processors, but if things continue as they have for the past 4 years, laptops run by speedy smartphones or tablet will be commonplace in a few years.

But, perhaps the most salient point: Windows 8 supports ARM and Microsoft will be pushing this hard. The days of "Wintel" are over (perhaps ARMDroid will be more appropriate going forward). Long-term, Microsoft will likely unify Windows Phone and Windows 8 around ARM.

The question now is, can Intel hold onto the enterprise and server market, or will it be forced to become an ARM licensee like everybody else?
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