Friday, November 23, 2012

Do you still use x86 arch?

The title is deliberately misleading, because this (r)evolution has not happened yet, although signs of x86 empire falling down are ubiquitous - I bet you hold one in your pocked, or maybe you even read this post on an arm-powered device. If that's not convincing you, there is even more signs:
  • Engadget says that Microsoft blames OEMs for lower-than-expected Windows 8 sales. What seems to be outstanding here is that not enough of new hardware is being sold. My personal and subjective observations show that personal usage of PC dropped significantly - it's much more convenient to consume internet content using tablet-ish devices on your sofa than be limited by a weight of a laptop or netbook (which is still heavy compared to a tablet).
  • Furthermore, Intel CEO is said to retire early. That may sound like a conspiracy theory, but, honestly, have you ever seen a CEO stepping "unexpectedly" back without a reason? Which might be the Intel absence in the mobile world? This is not the end of the bad news to Intel.
  • Apple is said to ditch x86 in favour of ARM. No more comments needed here.

But why?

The answer is pretty simple - power efficiency. According to this blog, Intel processor requires 4 times more power than ARM one while adding only 30% of performance. In other words, your battery will last three times longer with an ARM. That's significant, isn't it?

Fedora has been working on ARM for quite some time. There are even emulators that you can run on your x86 hardware.

Eclipse was built for ARM some time ago, but it was a PDEBuild style, which is another empire that is falling down (but that's completely separated story). I'm currently in the middle of CBI build. You may not share my excitement, but for me it is a really huge thing - after reall, really long time I have finally nailed the reason for which Tycho was failing with an ugly NPE - and the reason was named JIT, you know, the thing that compiles your java bytecode to the native instruction sets in order to execute them faster. ARM OpenJDK Jit turned out to optimize one loop so much that it was executed only once.

So, keep your fingers crossed, and arm yourself up!


  1. Don't be so excited, there are also plenty of blogs about Intel entering the mobile market and getting power consumption comparable with ARM.

    Also, keep in mind how much of the ARM devices have the hardware locked and they don't allow different OSes to be installed. An ARM future may not be that bright.

  2. I am a bit sceptical about a switch to arm.

    Like Nucu said alot of arm devices are locked and even tinkering with the software can void a warranty.

    I agree that x86 provides minimal performance compaired to the power consumption but until ARM devices are developed in an open way a switch to arm may not be such a good idea.

  3. Eclipse on ARM would be great. Thanks for looking into that.

  4. I'm also a bit skeptical whether ARM will perform well enough to run such large apps like Eclipse. Word on Windows RT isn't great. But we'll see. With nVidia and AMD trying to use it as leverage against Intel, the race is just beginning.

    Now, server side, the equation is much more interesting...

  5. Personally I think ARM is a great technology to work with however Intel has alot of resources able to be scaled to different OS requirements which unlike ARM will definetly be a big factor in upcoming hardware and software technology.