I've been a growing fan of the ARM platform for a while now but as time goes on my frustrations with the extremely drastic differences between ARM boards has begun to get under my skin. I've often thought to myself, "Why can't we just take an x86 machine and shrink its components to make an embedded system on a chip that walks, talks, and acts like the same old systems we're used to?"
In walks Intel to slaps me in the face with a big fat, "oh yeah ... we're totally doing that" and I love it. Its an amazing concept because I can take this SoC that will give me potentially days of battery life and run software that I've been running on my laptops, desktops, and netbooks since I've owned a computer. You know, software like the entire Fedora Distribution and all packages that might entail.
Intel recently demoed tablets and cellular telephones running on Moorestown CPUs that are claiming to be twice as fast as the current Pineview line of Atom processors as well as sporting a two to three times longer battery life. I'm a proud owner of an Asus EeePC 1001P and I'm getting about 8.5 hours of battery life on that thing with casual wifi browsing and a couple ssh sessions opened and this is all powered by an Intel Atom N450 which is a Pineview core running Fedora 13 Beta (full Gnome, etc. and it runs like a champ). With these claims of two to three times battery life, we really are approaching literally days of computing on a single charge from a processor that I can just fire up Fedora on. I like where this is going.
Lets go on a tangent for a moment, Apple has put a bid out to purchase ARM and I honestly hope they win it so they can absorb another platform just to kill it off. My hope is that Apple will win ARM, developers and distributors will not want to pay Apple/ARM prices or deal with their unreasonable developer agreements and will find comfort in Intel's Moorestown. Android and MeeGo are already supporting the Intel Moorestown line thanks to thier Linux roots and I like to think its just a matter of time before the mobile market abandons ARM all together. With the trend of tablet computers and smartbooks starting to gain some speed I think to myself, why divide ourselves as developers among multiple different ARM specs instead of having a standard target archticture that's been around for decades? But I digress.
Back on topic but keeping in mind the content of the tangent, lets think for a moment what this would mean for mobile platforms. Now, I want to start with the disclaimer that I love Free and Open Source Software but lets face it, half the internet runs on Adobe Flash. So while Adobe is beating its head against the wall trying to reinvent Flash for mobile platforms using several different abstraction models to keep the insanity of supporting all flavors of ARM from killing them entirely, Intel is quietly about to unleash the answer to their problem. To be honest, I don't care about Adobe in this respect (sorry Adobe, I just don't) but what I do care about are end users. If the end user can get a brand new Moorestown powered netbook with a day or two of battery life, double the performance of the current Intel Atom processors, and slap Fedora on there with out of the box support for everything they need as well as the option to add third party repositories for things such as Flash then I'm on board. Because in reality, the only reason x86 hasn't made it to cellular phones yet is because Intel hadn't found a way to pull off the battery life needed to do it. Now that they have, and I say we break an ARM or two.