No, Arm hasn’t lost to x86… not yet.

This blog comes in as a response to multiple media outlets qutoting Linus Torvald’s announcement that x86 won over Arm… :sigh:

First of all, STFU with all the clickbait-y title BS.

Coming to the actual point, here is the forum post where Linus stated that x86 won.


The forum thread started with people discussing the newly released Arm Ares aka Neoverse N1 for the server space. In the thread, the first post by Linus(a reply to OP) he states, “We’ll see if it actually delivers, but ARM is certainly looking a whole lot better than it used to.”

To which ‘anon’ replies that “They (arm) have no market for an 8 core design. They would have to not just match but beat x86 in single threaded performance for there to be any reason to use such a thing.”
> The plot thickens

Then comes Linus’s much-hyped post where he argues that “performance” is not really the reason. The main reason is that Arm still heavily relies on cross-platform development. Whether its a server/cloud or mobile target, for the most part, the majority of the development is done on an x86 PC, cross-compiled and finally deployed on Arm.
He proceeds to state that the reason x86 is so successful is that developers have direct access to an x86 machine in their homes in the form of their desktops and workstation.

Now, I do agree with what he said in that thread, about having a Arm desktop to directly develop for Arm on Arm.
I just don’t really agree with his last statement “It’s why x86 won.”.

If there was ever a war between Arm and x86, and believe me we ARE at war. The Arm ecosystem is just getting started.
We already have desktop/laptop specific chipsets from the like of Qualcomm with the SD850 and SD8cx, and even some of the mobile chipsets like the Hisilicon Kirin970 and Qcom SD845/855 are more than capable of being used in a desktop scenario. We also have some of the more industrial chipsets with multiple A72 cores on a single chip.
So that’s performance sorted, we even have development boards from the likes of 96Boards with above mentioned SoCs.

So what is really missing then?
Two things specifically:
– A Desktop friendly form factor: Like a NUC.
– Standardization: Now since we are aiming for a developer platform, rather than a development platform. Stuff needs to “Just Work”. Generic Arm distro images need to “Just Boot”. No more board specific images, board-specific kernel, board-specific needs to stop being a thing. And this is something the community has been begging for ages.
SBBR and SBSA implementation need to happen, Tianocore and Linux kernel upstreaming efforts need to happen and stop being something “optional”. And I am literally just repeating the words of the Arm community, its time vendors step up big time.

As for me, I’ll be at Linaro Connect BKK19 talking about this exact Arm DUC along with a few more link-minded members of the Arm community. Our session is titled “BKK19-302 Designing a next generation ARM Developer Platform” where we aim to discuss what needs to happen to make “Arm Developer’s kit” a reality.

And that’s why stuff needs to happen NOW.

32 comments

  1. We have to agree to disagree on this!
    For somebody, who have been dealing with these stuff for well over 30 years, from leveraging lowly 10MHz, 8 bit micros of 80’s to power central office switches to current RISC-V SoC’s (with AMD29XX, H8, MIPS, PowerPC, … and everything in between thrown in), I will go 100% with Linus here. ARM, like it’s principle benefactor, Apple, was always a design and commercial operation and rarely pushed the technology front, unlike Intel, IBM, Google, … etc. which had much more holistic vision of the under pinning of their technology driven operation. ARM principally benefited from the happenstance that these companies where less agile when the mobile boom happened, mainly because they were not able to marshal their best and brightest, refusing to abandon their existing echo system and user bases and the more fundamental technological vision.

    ARM was never in it.

    You don’t look to Apple for great technologies. You look to Apple for great products. Same goes with ARM, they are good partners with in the restricted scope they decided to play.

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  7. We need to settle on a truce on this!

    For someone, who have been managing these stuff for well more than 30 years, from utilizing modest 10MHz, 8 piece micros of 80’s to control focal office changes to current RISC-V SoC’s (with AMD29XX, H8, MIPS, PowerPC, … and everything in the middle of tossed in), I will go 100% with Linus here. ARM, similar to it’s rule promoter, Apple, was constantly a structure and business activity and once in a while pushed the innovation front, dissimilar to Intel, IBM, Google, … and so forth which had significantly more comprehensive vision of the under sticking of their innovation driven activity. ARM primarily profited by the luck that these organizations where less spry when the portable blast occurred, principally on the grounds that they were not ready to marshal their best and most brilliant, declining to forsake their current reverberation framework and client bases and the more central mechanical vision.

    ARM was never in it.

    You don’t seek Apple for incredible innovations. You seek Apple for extraordinary items. Same goes with ARM, they are great accomplices with in the confined extension they chose to play.

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