Since the dawn of Windows it has forever been linked with Intel. The two entities have been indispensable to each other for decades: the IBM PC clones craze of the 80s and 90s was completely run by DOS and Windows 95, all depending on the x86 architecture to run the software. Without the union of Intel and Windows, neither would have become the giants they are today. Indeed “Wintel”, as the union was referred to, has become the success story of the past 30 years. But time trudges on. AMD’s adoption of the x86 architecture pioneered by Intel now makes the phrase misleading (Winamd?) and numerous other architectures have become prevalent in the consumer space.
None is more synonymous with consumer electronics than Advanced RISC Machines – the ARM architecture that I so often speak of. Originally developed by Acorn as a RISC replacement for the legendary 6502 chip used in their computer line, the ARM architecture flourished after Apple teamed with Acorn to develop a low power, RISC solution for the Newton PDA in the 90s. The architecture has become the most widespread chip series in the world, featured in more devices than Intel, AMD, or IBM’s offerings due to their small power usage and massive scalability. Over the years, ARM has grown from a bare-bones architecture into a robust series of multi-use application processors. The “Cortex” series has brought multimedia power to smartphones, tablets and TVs, while legacy ARM parts find their ways into feature phones and game systems like the Nintendo DS. Continue Reading
CES this year has focused largely on mobile devices. NVidia has shown off their incredibly powerful Tegra 2, Imagination Technologies announced their new PowerVR SGX 545, and even Intel has honored Silverthorne’s memory by showing off Moorestown, their new mobile platform. I’ll have features on these technologies after CES, but the point is this: these chips can fit into your cellphones, but are FAR more powerful than full featured computers from only 7 or 8 years ago. In terms of graphics, these platforms have more advanced graphics processors than my desktop that I’m using to publish these posts – my computer is only 4 years old by the way. So we can see that this is the mobile revolution that we have waited for. The computer is moving from desktop to laptop to netbook to tablet to phone. 2009 gave us innovation in chips that has allowed us to place real power in phones, but 2010 is taking that concept a little bit bigger. Moorestown, Tegra 2, and SGX 545 aren’t meant for phones. They’re meant to kill netbooks.
What is a netbook really? Intel defined the term in its most recent incarnation as a laptop lacking an optical drive, using an Atom processor, and with a screen ranging from 7-10 inches. However, these specs are not mandatory and overtime the restrictions have loosened. We now have netbooks ranging from 7 inches to 12 inches, using Atom platforms or NVidia Ion. Some have massive 250GB hard drives or 8GB SSDs. The fact of the matter is that the netbook’s original purpose – to concentrate on the internet for productivity – has been lost in the turbulent reality of capitalism. As netbooks have become the bread and butter of OEMs, everyone has tried to make their product stand out from the crowd. Whether adding more storage, larger and brighter screens, or adding faster graphics; it’s all done to turn a race to the bottom into a standard spec war. Prices have slowly inched up to real laptop territory instead of staying in the sub-$300 range like intended. Netbooks are really just a name now and not so much a philosophy. Continue Reading