Intel braces for rival ARM, Windows 8


On the back of good but not great earnings Wednesday, Intel CEO Paul Otellini was queried about how Windows 8–the first mainstream operating system from Microsoft to support ARM chips–will change the competitive landscape.

During the company’s earnings conference call today, questions from one analyst focused on how the chipmaker will fend off an expected crush of devices running Windows 8 on ARM processors. ARM chips power most of the world’s smartphones and tablets.

Intel has consistently held an overwhelmingly dominant position in PCs, aka “client” devices, but the definition of a PC is changing quickly in the wake of Apple’s enormous success with the iPad. In the most recent quarter Apple shipped a staggering 9.25 million iPads–also considered a client device–using a processor based on an ARM design. That iPad number alone puts Apple among the top PC makers worldwide in quarterly shipments.

And trends toward new client devices will only accelerate when Microsoft brings out Windows 8 next year running on ARM processors from Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and Nvidia, among others. That means, of course, not only tablets but laptops running on Windows 8.

Is the iPad a PC? That depends on how you define a PC. But that definition is changing.

(Credit: Apple)

Otellini responded to a question about changes to the “competitive landscape” by emphasizing Intel’s performance and backward compatibility advantages on Windows 8. “I think the jury is out on how [Windows 8] will be perceived by the public on tablets,” he began. “We expect to be hyper-competitive for Win 8 tablets…our job is to make sure that we can out-perform, out-battery, and out-compatibility the ARM guys on Win 8 tablets,” he said.

Otellini continued. “We’ve been working with Microsoft for several years now on the feature set of Win 8 and optimizing our silicon around it in the PC space.”

And more generally, Intel executives talked about the company’s strategy to compete in a future full of devices running off the cloud. On the front end, the “Ultrabook” will take on attributes of both a tablet and laptop, while on the back end Intel will bulk up its already-formidable position in servers and data center technology.

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