Intel and AMD have long dominated the PC processor market, thanks to the fact that they have the exclusive power to make processors capable of running x86-64 code, but at the same time we keep reading and d hear that the x86 days are numbered and even when the time comes, Intel and AMD could go 100% ARM.
Why is there so much talk about ARMs lately?
Due to two events this year, on the one hand, the fact that Apple has stopped using Intel x86 processors for its Macintosh computers to create its own processors, based on the set of ARM registers and instructions. . The second reason was the purchase of ARM Holdings by NVIDIA, both events put ARM in the forefront of the news.
A market too crowded for Intel and AMD’s taste
ARM’s business model is to license its processors so that others can clone them or create technology compatible with them, in exchange ARM Holdings takes a small royalty for the rights to use the technology.
Intel and AMD, on the other hand, have exclusive use of the entire x86-64 ISA, through a series of cross-patents between the two companies, they enjoy an agreed oligopoly in which if you will to be able to run a program compiled in x86- 64 binary you will have to use a processor of these two brands, this causes a lack of price competition which keeps the prices of these processors high.
If Intel and AMD entered the ARM market, then there would be more to share the pie, which means price competition and less profit for them.
So why are we talking about the end of x86?
The answer is very simple: outright propaganda to justify Apple’s switch to its own processors.
Apple ditched x86 processors, not because they are bad processors as they continuously try to sell, but because Apple is unwilling to pay the high margins that Intel and AMD take for their processors.
The two ARM ecosystems in the domestic market
Due to the high profits of Intel and AMD, they can create an extremely complex architecture, on the other hand, in the ARM world, most of the participants do not raise enough capital to enter a trade war to the same degree than the x86 market,
It is true that some companies invest heavily in research and development, not for the computation of the ARM ecosystem, but for their own use in their products. If we look at brands like Apple, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and many more that are in the industry, we will see that their contribution to the ARM ecosystem globally is nil.
In other words, two ARM ecosystems must be differentiated. The first of these is the one in which small businesses license PIs of ARM Holdings and sell products with very low margins, preventing them from building their own processors. The second ecosystem is one in which companies like Qualcomm, Apple and others are involved that create their own SoCs and technologies compatible with ARM ISA, but are not licensed products of ARM Holdings.
Niche data center market could drop x86
The reason we use x86 processor in our personal computers regardless of their type is that we need to be able to run the programs.
But in some environments there is no such dependence on x86, especially in environments where the software used is developed for a specific application. This is where cost savings from Linux distributions and processors with ISA ARM take center stage, as its users have no problem giving up using x86 processors since their software does not depend on them. .
AMD and Intel know that the domestic PC market will never be replaced by ARM, but what concerns them are the companies that have dedicated themselves to designing ARM processors not for smartphones or low-power devices. energy, but for powerful and powerful data centers.
Ditching x86 software, something that never worked
The problem Intel and AMD would face would be that a large number of programs would suddenly be ARM compatible and could be used on a large number of processors, which in theory would prompt people to switch to ARM. Of course, it turns out that the milkmaid fell and with her the milk jug broke and the whole house of cards in the air disappeared.
On PCs where we are used to using Windows, we would find that we should transfer all programs from x86 to ARM, which has been tried and has not worked very well and we have evidence of Microsoft’s attempt to do so. ‘ditch x86 for ARM.
The thing is not as simple as putting a PC with ARM, the point is that people still want to be able to use their programs.
In the early 90s when the first versions of Windows NT appeared there was one for every processor architecture, by the next version the vast majority were gone due to obsolescence and by the third version everything was exclusively x86-64. The lack of PC software running under ARM is what prevents the transition from running.
Intel and AMD have no reason to ditch x86
The answer is obvious, for Intel and AMD they have no incentive to abandon x86 processors, as this would break the duopoly they have and which allows them significant margins and profits.
So contrary to what many are saying, we are going to have x86 for a while, as there is no technical, economic, and software incentive that forces a transition to ARM when it comes to the PC market.