If analysts are to be believed, ARM chips could power up to 10 percent of all PCs by 2013. IDC believes the figure will be closer to 7.5 percent, but Morgan Stanley is a tad more optimistic and it expects ARM will grab 10 percent of the market.
In a survey of 30 PC manufacturers, Morgan Stanley found that 40 percent of them were willing to give ARM chips a go. However, there are some hurdles to overcome before ARM PCs become a reality. Next generation chips from the likes of Texas Instruments and Nvidia should have enough muscle to power low end PCs, and their low power consumption could make them a perfect choice for affordable ultraportables or nettops.
The big question is OS support. Most ARM gear currently runs mobile operating systems, but for ARM PCs to take off, we will have to wait for Windows 8. Morgan Stanley found that PC makers were viewing the transition to ARM with “a lot of uncertainty” due to software compatibility issues, processor performance and consumer acceptance.
Most next generation ARM chips that could find their way into PCs will be based on the 28nm or 20nm process, which means they will probably be churned out by TSMC, which has a significant lead in the 28nm process. Morgan Stanly reckons TSMC stands to generate about $650 million in additional revenues on the back of ARM PC chips.