Ode to the ARM

If you haven't been living under a rock the past few years, you might have noticed a growth in marketing of smartphones.  If you have not noticed the television marketing of the dominant players which use Android and iOS, various social networks are also buzzing with this marketing. Besides the wrangling of hobbyists and loyalists, we also have financial pundits weighing in on the debate. People seem to praise that Cupertino company for its inroads and its supposed stance on HTML5 standards. Now that the H.264 is being provided royalty free, it changes the game somewhat. You will begin to see more of those one purpose commodity flip video recorders, which only encode H.264. I digress and will expound on this point in a future entry.

What I find most interesting about the ARM architecture (Acorn RISC Machine) is that it challenges the duopoly of Intel and AMD (Much like Linux and BSD has done in the desktop and server markets). For the sake of argument lets assume that there are virtually no other players in the CPU space at the moment. Having said that the dominant players are fixated on the desktop and server markets. 64bit architecture is becoming increasingly popular, despite the fact that most programs that you'll find on the garden variety desktop computer are still 32bit.

Anyway, Intel and AMD abandoned the low power applications for quite awhile since there was not a great deal of profit margin. ARM has been around since the 80's, well before set top boxes or mobile devices became common place for consumers. Low power and extended battery life are some basic tenants of the ARM architecture. Additionally, developers get the added benefit of working with essentially "royalty free" architecture. The latter is the "killer" feature, that makes it very difficult for the incumbents to compete. Simple RISC instruction set coupled with developer friendly licensing schemes. Wait there is more..

Because RISC has been around for quite sometime it is well understood, thus Unix and Unix-like operating systems thrive on this platform. Though ARM has made incremental changes for performance, everything is well documented standards based engineering.

Obviously, ARM isn't perfect because people still complain about battery life. I would suggest that until we discover how to reconstruct matter.. Well basically there is no such thing as a perpetual heat engine, thus we'll likely be complaining about battery life for quite awhile.  ARM still beats Intel and AMD quite easily when you begin battery life and heat dissipation.  Perhaps if I get some time I'll share some of the benchmarks which can be obtained rather easily on your local Interwebs.

Personally, I have three ARM devices. Let's count them.. Linksys NSLU2, Nokia N800, and Nokia N900 (Cortex). How many do you own?


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    This page contains a single entry by AG published on October 1, 2010 3:42 AM.

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