As the power consumption leader, ARM always though Intel would catch up one day, but never knew quite when.
“How incredibly fortunate it is”, Warren East, then the CEO of ARM, now chairman of Rolls-Royce, told EW in July 2008, “that Intel has done a job that we would consider not a very good job on that.”
According to ARM’s then vice president for marketing, Ian Drew, who was formerly an Intel executive: “We are one or two orders of magnitude better on passive power than Intel.”
Drew was supported, at that time, by the wireless industry’s leading analyst, Will Strauss of Forward Concepts, who points out that the ARM-based products of Qualcomm and Texas Instruments are ten times or more lower in power consumption than Intel’s mobile processor Atom.
With Intel having had an ARM architecture licence since 1997, and produced ARM-based processors, which it called X-Scale why hasn’t it learned to do low-power?
“It’s not one big thing,” replied Drew, “it’s lots of little things. It takes years of experience. But I’m sure they’re trying to do it.”
A massive advantage for ARM is all the licensees who have spent years designing low-power subsystems and peripherals around ARM cores.
“It’s not just the microprocessor but the system around the microprocessor”, said East, “we have upwards of ten years experience of building power-efficient systems on chip with multi-innovative sources in the dozen or so large semiconductor companies which have been developing innovation to ARM-based systems.”
Intel says it will reduce the power of Atom, by an order of magnitude in its next generation, expected in 2010.
But, by then, ARM would also have moved on. “There tends to be a 50 per cent improvement in power efficiency at each new generation of ARM,” said East.
TI, which used an ARM-based core in its OMAP platform to compete with Intel’s Atom, reckoned OMAP uses five times less power than Intel’s Atom.
According to TI’s wireless boss in 2008, Greg Delagi, even with an order of magnitude reduction in Atom’s power dissipation, Intel would be “still not in the ballpark of where they need to go.”