The Intel XScale conundrumBy Chris Williams. Published: 25th Aug 2005, 13:27:35 | Permalink | Printable
Chin up, could be worseAs if trying to reconcile some great conflict, IT pundits have been trying to get their heads around Intel's XScale and low power x86 architecture plans. On the one hand, the chip giant has announced plans to slash power consumption for its main line of processors whilst boosting performance, and on the other hand, is talking up a new gigahertz XScale family. Surely, the two cannot exist at the same time?
It's been noted that the introduction of Intel's so-called, x86-based next-generation microarchitecture (embedded processors for handhelds and similar ilk), will likely marginalise Intel's own XScale line. However, it's expected that the XScale will still continue to have a role at Intel for the next year or so, shifting towards applications that demand mobility. What appears to be the case is that Intel would eventually prefer people to use half a watt x86 processors, and in the meantime, coax clients into trying out the low power XScale line that Intel acquired and for a while, neglected. Plus, given that ARM continues to rule the mobile landscape and that the XScale is ARM compatible, it probably makes sense for Intel to ensure that they at least keep a foothold in the realm of ARM targeted development. On top of this, Intel have sneaked MMX-like instructions into the XScale, anyway.
The end result for RISC OS users is that, essentially, nothing has changed. Castle are unwilling to upgrade the processor used in the Iyonix (the 600MHz Intel IOP321), unless a new chip suddenly arrives and shows a significant increase in performance. Besides the IOP80321, which was chosen for the Iyonix because it had relatively good performance and included PCI support, embedded processors with ARM cores can also be suitable, as demonstrated by the A9home. Even though its Samsung ARM9 CPU doesn't include PCI or AGP support, its graphics and USB capabilities are arguably enough for RISC OS - an operating system that has always been able to 'do more with less'. Ultimately, by the time Intel decides to off load its XScale department for good, there's likely to plenty of ARM compatible alternatives available. It's unlikely, though, that these will ever target the desktop or workstation class of computers.
Intel in performance-per-watt turnaround
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