Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2010 Netbooks - ARM and Pineview, 3G and GPS

UPDATE: New articles on Pineview netbook performance and ARM CPU
Early 2010 (or even just across Christmas 2009) we'll see a small and a big revolution in the netbook market.

Small revolution
: the first netbooks with Intel Pineview (Atom N450) processor, I say small revolution since the Pineview processors won't have more performance than actual Atom N280. It's just an integration step (CPU core + memory controller + GPU). Some little more performance is expected by the Atom N470 (clocked at 1.86GHz) and that is supposed to be launched in Q2 2010.

Big revolution:
ARM processors will invade a market traditionally controlled by x86 architecture (Intel and AMD). These processors will be based on the ARM Cortex A8 and Cortex A9 cores, we'll see single and dual core implementations with clock frequency exceeding 1GHz, possibly up to 2GHz. As you may know, ARM sells just IP. The ARM cores are integrated in sofisticated SoC (System on a Chip) including GPU, memory controller and many interfaces. Some of these SoC are directly derivative of chipsets used in actual smartphones, for this reason it is very likely to see ARM netbooks with integrated 3G modem for data connectivity, some may even integrate a GPS receiver. Actually the first ARM SoC in netbooks should be the Qualcomm Snapdragon and Freescale iMX51. The Qualcomm Snapdragon is already used in some popular smarphones.
A very good side effect of ARM adoption is that these processors can't run Windows, they can "just" run Linux and this can be the factor that can finally help Linux gain acceptance and especially increase market share.
The ARMnetbooks got potential for a significant netbook price reduction: some extimate already sub $200 USD, more feature rich ARM netbooks getting in the $200-250 USD. The cost saving is due to the cheaper processors, smaller battery required (since the ARM processors are more energy efficient) and the zero license cost for the Operating System (a Windows 7 Starter licence shoud costs $15-20 USD).

ARM vs Atom Pineview: the ARM processors won't bring more performance, actually I guess that the single core variant may be even significant slower than Atom processors (Intel Atom processors got Hyperthreading/Multithreading), it's probably too early to judge however I guess that the performance level of the single core ARM processors will be comparable to Intel Celeron and VIA C7.

First Apple Netbook? Some speculate that Apple is going to lauch the first netbook with an own processors based on ARM architecture. The voice started after Apple acquisition of PA-Semi, a chipset vendor specialized in ARM architecture.

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