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Why Can't Intel Kill x86?

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the keeps-getting-luck-on-the-saving-throws dept.

Intel 605

jfruh writes "As tablets and cell phones become more and more important to the computing landscape, Intel is increasingly having a hard time keeping its chips on the forefront of the industry, with x86 architecture failing to find much success in mobile. The question that arises: Why is Intel so wedded to x86 chips? Well, over the past thirty years, Intel has tried and failed to move away from the x86 architecture on multiple occasions, with each attempt undone by technical, organizational, and short-term market factors."

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A hard time keeping on the forefront? (5, Interesting)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081385)

Intel is still the major manufacturer of laptop, desktop, workstation and server chips...
What if they're not the main provider for cheap toys? It's mostly a matter of price anyway. Whatever they do, Intel chips will always cost significantly more than ARM chips due to their business model.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (3, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081425)

Never forget! i960

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (5, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081687)

But what happens when cheaper, more power efficient ARM chips are powerful enough for desktops and laptops? I haven't bought a new machine because of speed issues since 2006. I bought a machine that year, and it's still running. I've since bought 2 laptops which were pretty much bottom of the line. Computers long ago reached the point where they were fast enough. If I'm able to buy an ARM based computer for $100 that plugs into the back of my screen and provides internet functionality, along with the ability to watch movies, listen to music, and play a few games, why would I spend $500 on a more traditional desktop? Intel chips will probably be around for quite a while on servers and workstations, but I think it won't be long until the laptop and desktop model is getting corroded by ARM chips.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (5, Insightful)

WilliamGeorge (816305) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081747)

"Computers long ago reached the point where they were fast enough..."

For you, maybe - but not for everyone. I work with people daily who need more computing power, and in fact would benefit even further if processors were faster even than they are today. "Fast enough" is a fallacy - there is always, and will always be, room for improvement. Folks doing media editing, 3D animation, scientific research, financial calculations, and a whole host of other things need more power from their computers - not to move away to a less capable platform.

Heck, even in games this is apparent. A lot of new games simply will not play well on processors from 2006 - that is seven years ago now, before quad-core processors were widely available! So please, don't take your one case and assume that means no one else has different needs for their computers.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (5, Insightful)

JDAustin (468180) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081903)

The Core-2-Quad 6600 (q6600) was released in Jan 2007. The chip is such a workhorse that it will run any of the new games out their. The limiter is the video card capabilities.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (4, Insightful)

pulski (126566) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081981)

There's a lot more to life than gaming. A fast video card won't do a thing to speed up the work I do every day.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (1)

NJRoadfan (1254248) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082089)

GPU acceleration might come in handy if you do any sort of video editing.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081905)

Anyone needing massive processing power can use EC2. For the other 98% of us, a cheap laptop is perfectly adquate.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081957)

Except "massive processing" power includes simple things like games and video decoding. Even if you are the computing equivalent of a couch potato, there's reason to have a decent amount of computing power at your disposal.

Cheap ARM devices that are throwbacks to the 90s are very limiting in this regard. That's why there's apps like AirVideo and Plex that run on PCs for the benefit of tablets.

It's very easy to overwhelm a weak system built for the "640k is enough" crowd just by doing something inventive or creative.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (5, Informative)

GreatDrok (684119) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081793)

The funny thing about ARM is that back in the late 80's and early 90's when the first ARM processors were being shipped, they were going out in desktop machines in the form of the Acorn Archimedes. These were astoundingly fast machines in their day, way quicker than any of the x86 boxes of that era. It took years for x86 to reach performance parity, let alone overtake the ARM chips at this time. I remember using an Acorn R540 workstation in 1991 that was running Acorn's UNIX implementation and this machine was capable of emulating an x86 in software and running Windows 3 just fine, as well as running Acorn's own OS. ARM may not be the powerhouse architecture now, but there is nothing about it that prevents it being so, just current implementations. ARM is a really nice design, very extensible and very RISC (Acorn RISC Machines == ARM in case you didn't know) so Intel may very well find itself in trouble this time around. The platforms that are all up and coming are on ARM now, and as demand for more power increases, the chip design can keep up. Its done it before and those ARM workstations were serious boxes. Heck, MS may even take another stab at Windows and do a full job this time but even if it doesn't, so what? Chromebooks, Linux, maybe even OS X at some point in the future, and Windows becomes a has-been. It is already around only 20% of machines that people access the internet from down from 95% back in 2005.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081799)

Because not everyone is casuals.
Some people actually benefit, be it personally or professionally, from the additional performance.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081817)

But what happens when cheaper, more power efficient ARM chips are powerful enough for desktops and laptops?

Because when ARM chips are "powerful enough for desktops and laptops", they will be neither "cheaper" nor "power efficient".

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (1)

Bengie (1121981) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082097)

Pretty much this. It was some time in the past year, but I was reading ARMs tech info for some of their poster-child chips that had relatively high performance in low power. Increasing them a small 20% increase in MIPs caused them a 100% increase in power consumption. Many other chips were similar. ARM is great, as long as you don't need "desktop" performance, then its worse than Intel in performance/watt.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081837)

An ARM based computer for $100 that plugs into the back of my screen and provides internet functionality is not a computer in my opinoin any more than a TV that has Twitter and Facebook is one. Its an internet appliance. You want that, good. A traditional desktop is for work. Work is making things like movies, music and games. ARM chips have a long way to go to get their still.

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43082031)

>. I bought a machine that year, and it's still running. I've since bought 2 laptops which were pretty much bottom of the line.

Which of those laptops do you think would be powerful enough to run Slashdot servers?

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081697)

Not to mention they are the fastest general purpose processors in the world right now. Yet some how that means they aren't staying on the forefront?

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (1)

thunderclap (972782) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081859)

general purpose = internet surfing, email and maybe a movie

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081889)

general purpose means not a GPU, FPGA, etc..

Re:A hard time keeping on the forefront? (5, Insightful)

overshoot (39700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081829)

Intel is still the major manufacturer of laptop, desktop, workstation and server chips... What if they're not the main provider for cheap toys?

If you weren't around for IBM's reaction to the arrival of minicomputers, or for Digital Equipment's reaction to microcomputers, you wouldn't understand why I'm cleaning up the coffee I just spewed all over my desk. Let's just say that last sentence isn't exactly new.

Why would intel want to? (3, Insightful)

colin_faber (1083673) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081393)

Really? I mean the Atom line processors are pretty great. The technology is well developed both for hardware and software and Intel basically owns that market. Why would they want to kill it off when they're still making money hand over fist with it?

Re:Why would intel want to? (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081671)

Pretty great? Atom sucks balls compared with AMD's offerings. And it's not even close. Intel offers them so that AMD has some competition in that space, but Intel doesn't have any reason for them to be good as that would take away from their business of selling the more expensive processors.

Re:Why would intel want to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081757)

I was going to say the same thing... Intel atom is pretty great... in that they only are in third place behind ARM and AMD products. That's not bad!

Re:Why would intel want to? (1)

colin_faber (1083673) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081735)

I don't want to get into an argument here about which process is better. My point was that the Atom works well, as well as the Xeon line and Core line processors.

Whether or not your favorite brand is something else shouldn't make a difference here. The point being that Intel is making piles of cash on technology they've already developed and put piles of money into. Why kill the golden goose just because cell phones use a slightly lower powered alternative.

The article reads like:

"My server processors suck for cell phones, so I should discontinue those because people use more cell phones than servers"

Not very sound business logic IMHO.

Re:Why would intel want to? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081871)

But, they don't work well. Watching my mother's netbook struggle to do basic things like open windows explorer where my equivalent AMD e-350 had no troubles indicates that it is in fact not something that works well. It certainly doesn't work as well as the Xeon or Core lines do in their respective market.

In fact, I have a hard time thinking of anything for which Atom works pretty well. If it can't handle basic Windows 7 stuff, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what it can do very well.

This isn't about brand preference it's about the fact that the line is so ineptly designed that it's worthless and the only reason people buy them is because there aren't sufficient non-Atom x86 compatible processors in that space.

Re:Why would intel want to? (3, Informative)

PRMan (959735) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082021)

I replaced the slow HD in my Asus EeePC Netbook with an SSD and it works great now. The Atom isn't the problem. It's the dog slow hard drives they put in them.

Re:Why would intel want to? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081781)

Atom great?

You're a fucking moron.

Atom is utter crap.

Re:Why would intel want to? (4, Interesting)

overshoot (39700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081843)

Why would they want to kill it off when they're still making money hand over fist with it?

Try reading "The Innovator's Dilemma."

Re:Why would intel want to? (5, Insightful)

PRMan (959735) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082077)

David Packard (of HP) used to say, "We're trying to put ourselves out of business every six months. Because if we don't, someone else will."

Back then, they came out with the LaserJet and DeskJet series and made tons of money. And every new printer was WAY better than the last one. But then he died and they decided that they should lock their ink cartridges and sue refillers instead of innovating. Now, companies like Brother and Canon are eating their lunch, by...wait for it...putting themselves out of business every 6 months...

They just can't do it, cap'n! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081405)

Much like redmond can't ship good software. Despite all those ultra-smart people both employ. Curious how that works.

Re:They just can't do it, cap'n! (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081517)

Redmond *can* ship good software... but they're hobbled by backwards compatibility. They're not willing to eat the same poison pill that Apple did when they shifted to OSX.

Redmond's software for platforms where they've declared from the outset that they're not going to try for backwards compatibility is actually pretty good, from a software engineering standpoint. That's the xbox line and the current generation of WinMo. The user interface leaves a lot to be desired, but the actual underlying platform is pretty good.

Re:They just can't do it, cap'n! (5, Interesting)

Killall -9 Bash (622952) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081685)

Christ, I keep hearing this shit. I've been hearing the code monkeys lament the backwards compatibility tribulations of the windows ecosystem since the days of Windows95 fucking up 16-bit Windows3.1 code. AND IT ISN'T THE PROBLEM. It is A PROBLEM, but not THE problem.

I can name a whole shit load of things wrong with (pick a version of) windows, none of which have anything to do with backwards compatability, or anything else under the hood.

The problem with windows 15 years ago is that Microsoft didn't know how to innovate. All they could do is steal the good ideas of others.

The much worse problem with windows today is that they've stopped stealing good ideas, and started developing horrible ones in-house.

Microsoft is an alchemist that has discovered, after years of toil, a method for turning gold into shit.

Re:They just can't do it, cap'n! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081867)

That's not really fair, shit flushes, M$ sticks around.

Re:They just can't do it, cap'n! (2)

kg261 (990379) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081609)

IBM missed the small OS Microsoft missed search Funny how that works. You would think they could set up a corporate process to analyze and evaluate alternative approaches, and then meet with the HR department to classify the requirements and determine the appropriate .....

Dumbass (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081411)

Because there's no point in killing it. Also, most companies are not going to spend the money to port and/or rewrite all their code. There are also a shit ton of legacy apps for x86 that there is no reason to replace.

Why would Intel want to kill the x86? (5, Insightful)

cait56 (677299) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081419)

This has been true for decades. Technology wants to evolve from CISC to RISC. The x86 brilliantly hid this by translating CISC to RISC superbly,
But once you lose the x86 tag Intel would just be one of many vendors. The closest thing to competition they have had for x86 has been AMD.

Re:Why would Intel want to kill the x86? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081673)

Do you even understand what "CISC" and "RISC" are? It doesn't just mean "less instructions and stuff." There are, in fact, other design characteristics of "RISC" such as fixed width instructions (wasted bandwidth and cache) and so on.

While I'm sure you are attempting to somehow suggest that intel pays some kind of massive "decode" penalty for all it's instructions and will always be less power effieicnt because of it, things are not quite so simple. You see, a RISC architecture will typically need more instructions to accomplish the same task as a CISC architecture. This has an impact on cache and bus bandwidth. Also, ARM chips still have to decode instructions. It's not a trace cache.

It's a false dichotomy to say that things are either CISC or RISC. There would be various architectures that wouldn't really qualify as either, such as a VLIW architrecture for example.

So, in summary no, technology does not "want" to evolve from CISC to RISC. And even ARM isn't really faithful to the RISC "architecutre", what with supporting multiple bit formats (i.e., thumb, etc) and various other instructions.

I look forward to this day when discussions of various cpu can be advanced beyond stupid memes and rehashed flamwars from decades ago. But this is slashdot, so I expect too much.

Re:Why would Intel want to kill the x86? (1, Informative)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081823)

Don't even bother. There's a whole contingent of "but it's RISC under the hood" folks around here who don't understand that a single accumulator architecture that has gems like "REPNE SCASB" in its instruction set will never be RISC.

Re:Why would Intel want to kill the x86? (4, Insightful)

KingMotley (944240) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082083)

There is a whole set of folks apparently that don't understand that the CPU doesn't have an execution engine that can process "REPNE SCASB". "REPNE SCASB" will get translated into a small set of RISC-like instructions internally that get executed.

Or are you trying to say that RISC computers can't possibly run C, because they don't those complex instructions too? Do you think that RISC assembly can't possibly have a REPNE SCASB macro? Are you confused because the translation happens inside the CPU instead of the assembler?

Re:Why would Intel want to kill the x86? (1)

djdanlib (732853) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081709)

Don't forget Cyrix, which used to be everywhere in the '90s, and lives on in the form of VIA C7 / Nano today. It's mostly in netbooks now, but there is competition and they know it.

I like my Intel chips, but I also remember them getting busted for something akin to collusion in a lot of markets. If they had played by the rules, we probably would see a lot of alternatives.

Re:Why would Intel want to kill the x86? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082047)

I had a Cyrix P166 until fairly recently that I used for old games on Win98, especially Quake. It was a pretty snappy computer, and it beat out the Pentium I still have that's from the same era.

Re:Why would Intel want to kill the x86? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081717)

Why is this market as flamebait?

It will (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081443)

What intel needs is a superior architecture that can successfully microcode intel instructions with minimal performance cost.

Re:It will (4, Informative)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081567)

What intel needs is a superior architecture that can successfully microcode intel instructions with minimal performance cost.

You mean, like x86-64?

You don't seriously think that modern Intel processors are actually CISC, right? The underlying instruction set is closer to a DEC Alpha than it is to an 80x86 processor....

Re:It will (5, Insightful)

rsmith-mac (639075) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081819)

You don't seriously think that modern Intel processors are actually CISC, right? The underlying instruction set is closer to a DEC Alpha than it is to an 80x86 processor....

And that's really why the story question is misguided. The underlying architecture has nothing to do with the ISA; Intel can build whatever they want and throw an x86 decoder frontend on it and have a suitable x86 CPU. Killing the x86 ISA doesn't do anything for Intel or their customers.

Re:It will (0)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081931)

No, it's still CISC. If different instructions have differing sizes, anywhere between one and 8 bytes; if the instruction set is wildly non-orthogonal; if it has a single accumulator; if certain instructions require the use of particular registers, then it's still CISC. The external interface is all CISC. If you put an Indy Car engine in a Volkswagon, it still LOOKS like a Volkswagon, it still corners like a Volkswagon, even if it goes like hell in a straight line.

Re:It will (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43082037)

If you put an Indy Car engine in a Volkswagon, it still LOOKS like a Volkswagon, it still corners like a Volkswagon, even if it goes like hell in a straight line.

Actually it will corner worse than a Volkswagen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chreIG-6NXo

Re:It will (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081605)

what i don't get is why they didn't just throw a couple of x86_64 cores on the same chip as their say itanium prossesors for their workstation and servers possessors and a atom based core along with a ARM chip (they own a ARM license as i recall) for phones and tablets. they would then have a leg up in both markets because they could still use legacy code. best of both worlds.

Re:It will (1)

eabrek (880144) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081913)

What time frame do you have in mind? When Itanium was first developed, you could barely fit one of that in the reticle (max die size). It wasn't until later that we started having multiple core on a die.

Backwards Compatibility (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081447)

If you have such a huge install base and abandon it for a new architecture you are going to lose portions of that install base. Duh.

Blame Windows? (2)

Bugler412 (2610815) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081453)

This is /. I'm sure we can find a way to blame Microsoft or Windows, this is an easy one! /sarcasm

Re:Blame Windows? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081525)

We don't need to find a way. Microsoft and Windows just blame themselves.

Re:Blame Windows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081809)

Clippy is in the clink for helping Bob swallow some 9mm aspirin.

Well luckily (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081483)

There is plenty of market outside the mobile market. Use the best architecture for the job. This is a moronic trollish non-story designed to incite debate. SoulSkill can go fuck off this site.

Discuss.

Re:Well luckily (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081681)

Exactly, this article is no better than the 'desktop is dead' bullshit that appears every few weeks. If mobile and ARM are such hot shit how come the Surface RT was a flop and the Pro is doing so well despite its comparatively limited battery life? iPads and the like are going to be limited to 'casual' users until the technology is mature - and by then Intel's own offering (be it Atom or something new) will still have the competitive edge thanks to their billions spent on R&D. Intel isn't going anywhere and certainly won't be replaced by cheap Chinese crap.

Crack pipe to full (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081489)

Intel is the one to beat.
Ask AMD, good luck with that.

The Curse of Reverse Compatibility (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081511)

Intel (with pressure from Microsoft) long ago decided that backwards compatibility was a sacred cow. The profit opportunity they found -- namely, having millions of cheap PC clones which can all run the same software, even if that software was written in 1989 -- was judged to be worth the extra engineering "drag" of having to support ancient operations and addressing modes. There is still hardware in the Core 2 that exists only to support opcodes from the 8086! How much money, I wonder, has Intel spent on engineering, all just to avoid having to tell the Windows fans that they'll have to stop using any program that's old enough to visit a bar?

There's not much mystery why they can't move away from X86. They consciously made a profit-seeking management decision that shackled their ability to engineer radically. If they didn't want their engineers to be shackled, they'd cut of all the old baggage that keeps them weighed down. Until they take that step, all their talk is just hot air. But I suppose hot air is the norm at a company that created the Pentium 4.

Re:The Curse of Reverse Compatibility (1)

sensei moreh (868829) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082009)

My first IBM PC-compatible computer was 8086-based. But I got rid of it 20+ years ago, so it's ok if Intel drops support for 8086 opcodes.

They could.... (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081521)

They could drop 32bit at some point, but I don't think even the legacy instruction sets hinder them much.

Because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081541)

there is still demand. x86 just works.

That said, I didn't buy any Intel Products in Years. The last thing was one of the early Netbooks. I'm disgusted by UEFI, High Prices and unlock-performance-with-a-code. So.... I propably won't buy any x86 Hardware in the Future either, but that's just me.

Re:Because... (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081617)

What hardware will you buy then? For your general computing needs, that is.

Re:Because... (1)

yincrash (854885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081675)

AMD, probably?

Re:Because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43082101)

I don't. I still have a handfull Computers and they will do it a while longer. If I really need something new, I probably look at ARM or MIPS. Since I don't like UEFI, I don't like locked Bootloaders either so it's difficult to find something.

Why ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081555)

Because killing is criminal you dummy... :P

Answer in summary. My mini analysis (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081569)

...short-term market factors

If they bail on x86 it'll really hurt their bottom line for a few quarters and subsequently their stock price. This will then hurt the executive suite's compensation.

In short, Intel will be stuck with the x86 architecture until they become private, a division of Apple, or go out of business.

They tried it before and failed. (2)

big_e_1977 (2012512) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081577)

The reason has something to do with the billions of x86 chips currently in operation in the server/desktop/laptop market and the massive amount legacy software written for x86. Intel tried to implement a new non backwards compatible CPU architecture before, IA-64, and it failed to catch and the backwards compatible AMD 64 bit x86 variation winning out.

Re:They tried it before and failed. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081761)

Certainly backwards compatibility was an important factor. There were three other very large issues too.

First, they were terribly expensive. (Or more precisely since I don't know what the per unit costs were, everyone charged a premium for systems with IA-64 in it.)

Second, the IA-64 relied on the proverbial smart compiler but it turned out much harder to create the smart compiler than was expected. So you had to spend a lot of time profiling and watching the hardware status counters to determine what needed to be done to get good performance. (On the plus side, the IA-64 had tons more hardware counters than x86. On the down side, we always needed more counters than were available and hence had to make multiple runs, hoping that nothing significant changed between them, to get the full state we needed for tuning.)

Third, the x86 largely stayed within the running on performance due to the difficulty and time it took to get good IA-64 compilers and to tweak your programs.

Thus in the final analysis, IA-64 didn't have enough performance benefit to overcome the time and money costs and hence the x86 remained highly competitive so that software compatibility could be a deciding factor.

-Anon

wtf? (4, Interesting)

etash (1907284) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081581)

the question is idiotic. sounds more like "asking a question just to ask it". Why should even intel kill x86? Would anyone even WANT to kill his cash cow ? It sounds more like wishful thinking from the camp across the atlantic ( arm *wink* *wink* ). Sure they would like to initiate or induce an inception of such an idea, but Intel has no reason at all to abandon such a successful platform.

How did God Create the Universe in 6 Days? (5, Funny)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081603)

He didn't have to deal with an installed base.

Re:How did God Create the Universe in 6 Days? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081751)

And no daily Scrum.

Re:How did God Create the Universe in 6 Days? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081849)

He didn't have to deal with an installed base.

Why would an omnipotent being take 6 whole days to create the universe?
This means that the being is not actually omnipotent, and therefore is not a God.

Simple. (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081607)

Windows, Word, Excel, and Games.

Microsoft is just starting to make cross hardware platform applications and development. So we have decades of legacy software that depends on the x86 architecture.

Back in the 90's when Java Was becoming Popular, Microsoft put an end to that, and gave us .NET that runs slightly faster than Java but only works with windows on x86 and didn't put any effort in making cross platform, trying to keep a hold on the market. If apps could start working cross OS's and Hardware platforms then people will no longer want Windows, or more to the point, they could choose not to use windows.

Legacy (4, Interesting)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081637)

Because the world runs on legacy software, and that legacy software runs on a legacy platform called x86. The answer is really that simple.

You can come up with a superior platform for power (ARM), it has been done and it worked really well on phones where there wasn't a large legacy base of software already in place. You can come up with a superior platform for 64 bit processing (Itanium), it has been done and it worked really well in a very limited marked (servers that handled large databases). However that market was too limited and large lawsuits have been filed to try to get out of that market.

Other examples abound and have been made, the payoff to whoever could succeed would be in the billions of dollars (Even the Chinese are trying their own homegrown CPU architecture). Every single one of them that has tried to enter the desktop market has failed though for the simple reason that it couldn't emulate x86.

Even Microsoft would dearly love to get out of the x86 business, the payoff in terms of killing legacy software support and selling all new software would be huge (hello Surface RT). I think you'll notice that sales of Microsoft RT products have all been a dismal failure with manufactures declining to make new products as fast as they can.

Until you can build a chip that can emulate x86 and support a different architecture and do so more cost effectively than just an x86 chip x86 will live. You can't kill it, Intel can't kill it, AMD can't kill it, Microsoft can't kill it and you sure as hell can't nuke it from orbit. It's embedded in billions of computers and software programs worldwide, and that is a zombie army that you just can't fight.

exactly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081683)

As the parent mentioned, Intel DID come up with a clean sheet chip that threw away legacy. And guess what? It gets regularly trashed here for not being x86 compatible. WTF Slashdot? So you can't have it both ways Slashdot. Either you discard legacy, or have it. Make up your mind.

Re:exactly (1)

eabrek (880144) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081753)

Actually Intel has come with at least two replacements (i432 and Itanium). Both suffered from bad design choices and (more importantly) poor implementations.

Re:exactly (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082007)

What were the bad design choices in Itanium?

Re:Legacy (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081725)

Until you can build a chip that can emulate x86 and support a different architecture and do so more cost effectively than just an x86 chip x86 will live. You can't kill it, Intel can't kill it, AMD can't kill it, Microsoft can't kill it and you sure as hell can't nuke it from orbit. It's embedded in billions of computers and software programs worldwide, and that is a zombie army that you just can't fight.

actually nuking it from orbit is the only way to kill it a good emp pulse from high orbit would take out a lot of the install base.

Re:Legacy (1)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081845)

I thought of that, but then decided there are too many of them scattered about, including - in orbit - to ever be able to nuke them from orbit and be sure. I'm not sure if we have enough nukes world wide to actually perform that feat.

Perhaps someone with more time can calculate how wide of a surface area we can wipe out with an EMP, divide that by the populated surface with a density greater than x and come up with an answer?

Re:Legacy (4, Insightful)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081893)

Until you can build a chip that can emulate x86 and support a different architecture and do so more cost effectively than just an x86 chip x86 will live. You can't kill it, Intel can't kill it, AMD can't kill it, Microsoft can't kill it and you sure as hell can't nuke it from orbit. It's embedded in billions of computers and software programs worldwide, and that is a zombie army that you just can't fight.

That, in fact is how Apple switched processors. Twice. The PowerPC Macs were so much faster than the old 68K that they could emulate the old stuff as fast as the 68K machines, and the native PPC software blew the older machines away. When they switched to (ugh) Intel, the PPC had fallen behind and there was a similar performance gap.

IIRC, early versions of Windows NT could run emulated x86 software at decent speed on the DEC Alpha, but that machine was too pricey for the mass market.

So, to kill the x86, we need a machine that is enough faster than the x86 to run legacy software at comparable speed, native software that's faster than anything on X86, and a price low enough for the average consumer.

Re:Legacy (1)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082017)

You hit the nail on the head about how to kill the x86 and that is why I said it can't be done. The big thing today is that computer prices have fallen far enough I don't see how you could ever pull this off at today's prices.

Your also exactly right about your Mac points, which is something that would be difficult to do again. People like to speculate about ARM being the architecture for Mac, but I just can't see that happening in the next several years.

Two Words (1)

Galestar (1473827) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081645)

Vendor Lock-in.

...or is that three

Why should they migrate away (1)

clay_buster (521703) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081659)

A single CPU architecture across operating systems and devices has worked out well for consumers. There are a wide variety of operating systems and user leve software on that platform. We'd need a viable cross platform application VM architectures, JVM/CLR style, if we want to avoid application islands.

Re:Why should they migrate away (1)

dpilot (134227) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082069)

There are 2 things new under the sun...

First is greater acceptance of OSS and Linux. (Not that OSS and Linux are new - acceptance of them is.) This makes platform and instruction set matter less. For some set of OS and applications it makes an alternative instruction set and platform a compile away. Though it's never as simple as "just recompile" it's still far simpler than "develop from near-scratch", especially as the better OSS tends to be closer to "just recompile"..

Second is the ARM big.little architecture. It's an interesting solution to the problem, "How do I save power on the super-CPU when most of the time it just fields keyboard interrupts?"

Third (out of 2) is that cellphones and tablets are rapidly going to become "legacy". Just wait until someone wants a grown-up version of their tablet/phone app to run on their desktop.

ARM Processors (2)

gewalker (57809) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081665)

95% of the processors on tablets and smartphones are ARM processors. ARM Holdings licenses out ARM to a number of chip vendors. In theory, Intel could license ARM also from ARM Holdings and start to manufacture ARM chips. Given the difference in margins, it is unlikely they will do so until they feel there is a significant threat to the business. Even better for Intel (in terms of non-x86 revenue) would be a cross-licensing agreement with ARM that gives Intel a slice of the ARM pie. So, it is not impossible for Intel to compete in the non-86 market, it is simply very difficult to establish a new processor architecture and gain significant market share. The ARM architectural roots are nearly as old as those of the X86 architecture.

This is not to say that Intel has not blown opportunities in the past, but a new architecture today would be very difficult. Intel has deep pockets, but were Intel successful in a new architecture today, it is plausible that US monopoly regs would stomp on Intel for using existing money to develop a new market.

They used to make ARM (2)

feranick (858651) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081807)

It was called Xscale and it was among the best at the time. They sold it to Freescale (I believe).

Re:ARM Processors (1)

afidel (530433) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081969)

Intel holds an ARM license, they retained rights when they sold XScale to Marvell.

Rupert Holmes said it best ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081669)

If you like humping your mommy
And getting caught by your dad
If you're not into poota
If you have half a nad
If you'd like humping butts at midnight
In the smooth anal gape
Then I'm the love that you've looked for
Write to me and assrape.

Cisc (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081693)

Cisc instructions still have a use where on risc you have to everything yourself

ISA doesn't matter (1)

eabrek (880144) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081713)

As much as people like to dig on x86, ISA simply doesn't matter. The benefits of programmer familiarity and tools infrastructure (not to mention installed base and compatibility) dwarf any possible technical advantage (of which there are few)

where is the software? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081739)

the reason i use ARM on my iphone, ipad or android phone is that there are hundreds of thousands of applications to choose from to do different things

every non-x86 platform for the desktop market has had a lack of software. the OS is useless by itself.

Article is 20 years too late (2)

Sebastopol (189276) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081743)

The last attempt Intel made at a non-x86 architecture was Itanium.

In 1995.

And it wasn't an attempt to ditch x86. The Itanium was a server product from the ground up, and only partially a technology vehicle for VLIW because HP (the partner at the time) largely drove that aspect of the ISA.

This article is pointless. The RISC/CISC debate is moot. Or, more aptly: an academic exercise, free from real-world constraints.

Re:Article is 20 years too late (1)

0123456 (636235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081795)

And it wasn't an attempt to ditch x86. The Itanium was a server product from the ground up, and only partially a technology vehicle for VLIW because HP (the partner at the time) largely drove that aspect of the ISA.

Itanium only became 'a server product from the ground up' when it turned out to suck everywhere else. Before that the media was full of 'Itanium is going to replace x86 everywhere' articles.

Re:Article is 20 years too late (1)

eabrek (880144) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081835)

Correct. Server products don't need high floating point bandwidth (which Itanium had)

x86 is Intel IP (1)

tvlinux (867035) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081769)

If Intel moves away from x86, it just becomes a fab company. Intel has much IP in the x86. The x86 is Intel's bread and butter.

No, they won't buy it this time! (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081821)

I think the unique ability to run existing x86 (or recompile manually optimized for x86 c programs) at native speed is one of the reasons many of us stick with Intel architectures, it gives them a very strong tactical advantage. It would also alienate many strong key advice givers in the machine purchasing decision making process if their home Intel game collection was suddenly nixed by a capricious ogre like hardware maker.

No need (5, Interesting)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081841)

These articles are constantly missing the point.

x86 is fine. The flaws of the architecture are mostly superficial, and even then, x86-64 cleans a lot of it up. And it's all hidden behind a compiler now anyways - and we have very good compilers.

ARM has an advantage in the ultra-low-power market because they've been designing for the ultra-low-power market. Intel has been focusing on the laptop/desktop/server market, and so their processors fit into that power bracket.

But guess what? As ARM is moving into higher-performance chips, they're sucking up more power (compare Cortex-A9 to Cortex-A15). And as Intel is moving into lower-power chips, they're losing performance (compare Atom to Core).

The ISA doesn't really affect power too much, as it turns out. It affects how easily compilers can use it, and how easily the chip can be designed, but not really power draw or thermal performance. Given the lead Intel has on fabrication, any slight disadvantage of the x86 architecture in that regard is made up for by the software library.

Three words (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081851)

Close Source Applications.

They're not stupid like Microsoft is, they know that closed source and multi-arch don't work together.

World is increasingly specialized in terms... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43081857)

.. of computational horsepower. The idea that one architecture rules is nonsense. Videocards used in X86 systems are not x86 processors. The truth is computing has increasingly undergone specialization. It makes much more sense to specialize computational units towards places it makes sense.

Funny you should ask . . . (5, Interesting)

Inkidu (2838387) | about a year and a half ago | (#43081885)

It's already a bad day for Redmondians. Haswell is slated to be introduced in 2014 will mostly offer the BGA designed Broadweil "System-on-a-Chip CPU", pre-sodered on an Intel motherboard like Atom chips are now. There will be nothing to upgrade - in effect this will be a device in PC clothing. There are rumors of high-end LGA packaging, but the upgrade possibilities will be limited to a few paltry offerings. No one will be making consumer upgradable parts anymore. Another way of saying it is that It will become cheaper for Dell just to replace the whole "PC-thingy" than to repair it. Yet Another Way... Intel's Ivy Bridge product cycle ends in 2014. Its successor, Haswell, will not have a desktop chip. The English story: http://semiaccurate.com/2012/11/26/intel-kills-off-the-desktop-pcs-go-with-it/#.UTU5hjZMn2A [semiaccurate.com] As tablets and smart phones replace desktops and notebooks, Intel, Microsoft and the desktop manufacturers struggle for market-share. The end of the desktop in 2014 does not mean the demise of the notebook, or of Microsoft, or of the support jobs they bring. It does foreshadow their end though. This time its a question of what and who will be left behind. Intel's market-based decision will shrink the computer field in general, and IT departments everywhere. With a paradigm shift away from a smart-client/server model to a dumb-portal/Cloud one, the computer becomes just another office supply, and the IT department becomes marginalized. When in the cloud, other services seem more viable. Virtual storage and backup deals mean goodbye to lots of servers, and that backup guy too. No longer dependent on the IT department, HR, Customer Service - hey, every department can find alternatives in the cloud. And those alternatives in the cloud will be supplied by the same people who make the software installed on their computers now. By putting Office online, Microsoft separates their biggest revenue stream from their troubled operating system. Microsoft will want to make up for the loss of revenue. They will “incentivise” their cloud products, making services cheaper than anything an IT department can provide. The stakes are even higher because Microsoft has to move into cloud, which is Google’s home turf. Google enters the market meeting Microsoft head on, feature-to-feature and with a better price - for now. Both competitors want a piece of the IT department, especially in these changing times. So count on predatory pricing to make the move even cheaper. These giants are in a fight for their corporate lives, so don’t think for one moment they’ll do anything that’s not in their financial interest. Every perk will have its price. The original story: http://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ja&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fpc.watch.impress.co.jp%2Fdocs%2Fcolumn%2Fubiq%2F20121122_574440.html [google.com]

You may safely assume (3, Interesting)

overshoot (39700) | about a year and a half ago | (#43082081)

That when Mankind actually launches ships to other star systems, the computers on board will be running a descendent of the x86 ISA, even if it's running 1024-bit words on superconducting molecular circuitry.

And also that the geeks who know anything about them will be bitching about the <expletive> ancient POS instruction set.

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