ARM as a primary architecture

Przemek Klosowski przemek.klosowski at
Thu Mar 22 13:11:12 UTC 2012

On 03/22/2012 02:31 AM, Kevin Kofler wrote:
> Tom Lane wrote:
>> That opinion is flat out ridiculous.  Or maybe it makes sense if you
>> think consumer desktops are the be-all and end-all; but they are not.
> Consumer desktops and notebooks. The things we normally call "computers".
> Those have always been and should remain our primary target.
Check out the numbers from The Economist:

The number of desktops has been flat for last 7 years. The growth in the 
smartphone/tablet area dwarfs 'what we normally call computers'.

The whole article is at

> Wow, you seem to really hate x86. But please accept the fact that, no matter
> how much you hate x86, it is THE relevant architecture right now.

ARM claims an installed base of 25 billion CPUS, and current deployment 
rate of 6 billion new CPUs per year. Granted, a large fraction of that 
are microcontrollers (single purpose, no virtual memory etc), but still, 
the total number of x86 machines is about 500 million.

> Nonsense. As long as we have healthy secondary architectures, we can promote
> them to primary when it really makes sense, i.e. when/if the x86 apocalypse
> happens. (By the way, don't count on it happening at all. The end of x86 has
> been proclaimed so many times, yet each of the prophecies has been proven
> wrong so far. Not even the move to 64-bit and Intel putting its weight
> behind a non-x86 64-bit architecture were able to kill x86. What was killed
> instead was the Itanium, dubbed "Itanic" by many. Don't be too quick to
> write off x86!) There is no need whatsoever to make the move to primary now.

I had an interesting discussion with VIA---asked them why don't they 
compete with Intel's inexpensive Atom platforms. They weren't interested 
in the low end; they claimed that there's plenty of demand for 
traditional 'few hundred bucks' price point. I think they are wrong 
about how sustainable that demand is---ARM has low-end CPUs for >1$ (ST, 
NXP, TI), and the OS-capable ones for under 10$.

Now, does it mean that we need to rush the ARM primary architecture? Of 
course not--as others have said, one gets the job because one can do the 
job, but we need to figure out the details of how to get there:

- toolchain/build environment speed

- better and/or standard installation mechanism

- QA techniques

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