For years, computer makers have tried to sell PCs built on Arm processors, a power-efficient family that powers smartphones . Compared with models running on x86 chips from Intel and AMD , though, Arm-based PCs have suffered from performance and software compatibility shortcomings.
Now Apple’s M1 processors, the Apple-designed member of the Arm family that powers new MacBooks , are changing views of Arm PCs. The M1 chips offer not just good battery life, like Qualcomm’s Arm chips in some Windows laptops , but also good performance. At the same time, x86 PCs have improved only gradually.
So it’s no surprise to hear some new optimism from Arm Chief Executive Simon Segars.
“What we’re starting to see now is real innovation going on in a market where there hasn’t been a huge amount of innovation,” Segars said in an interview during the CES 2021 technology conference. “Any time there’s discontinuity that makes people question how we’re doing this, that injects energy into innovation.”
Part of that innovation comes from Arm itself, which is pouring new engineering resources into PC chip designs, he said. Another part could come from Nvidia , the leading graphics chipmaker that’s trying to acquire Arm for $40 billion.
Arm indeed has a better chance thanks to Apple, Endpoint Technologies analyst Roger Kay said. “Arm has been talking about breaking into this market forever. I think they’re on the cusp of really being able to do it. Apple’s the avenue in,” he said. Success for Arm would mean PCs powerful enough for mainstream buyers but efficient enough that you could leave your charger in a desk drawer for a day or two at a time with no worries.
Arm’s Cortex-X1 chip design can be customized for better performance, an approach that should be useful as Arm tries to boost its processor family in PCs.
Although Arm isn’t a household name, the Cambridge, England-based company’s technology…