Today most netbooks are powered by chips from Intel or VIA. But starting this summer we could see a flood of mini-laptops sporting ARM CPUs start to hit the streets. ARM is best known for making chips for cellphones today. But the next generation ARM chips will combine low power consumption with integrated WiFi, 3G, and video playback features, making them a good choice for mini-laptops. That is, if you don’t care too much about running Windows XP, Vista or 7. Because those operating systems don’t run on ARM processors right now. ARM netbooks will have to run Linux, Windows CE, or another operating system optimized for the platform.

That could make ARM powered netbooks a tough sell if you stick them in a big box electronics store next to mini-laptops sporting a full version of Windows. But ARM laptops will have two things going for them (besides excellent battery life):

  • They’ll be much cheaper to produce, and will therefore likely be priced much lower than Intel or VIA powered computers.
  • Cellphone carriers are likely to partner with the makers of ARM based netbooks to offer subsidized mini-laptops to customers who sign up for long term service contracts.

AT&T has already told EeeTimes that it expects to sell ARM based netbooks in the future. The company already offers a number of Intel Atom powered netbooks including the Acer Aspire One, Dell Inspiron Mini, and LG X110. AT&T doesn’t plan to replace those models with cheaper ARM powered laptops, but will instead likely offer customers both options.

via Windows for Devices

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15 replies on “AT&T expects to sell ARM powered netbooks”

  1. Pricing of some non-intel netbooks really was not that cheap. My guess is that they will have to sell for $150 or less to grab massive attention.

    For example: I have seen where the Xburst 400 based units with 128MB RAM, and 1GB Flash, that we thought were going to sell for really really cheap… instead they are priced at WAY TOO MUCH MONEY! A search of pricing for those units shows that they are very expensive for not too much at all…. see:

    These ARM units… I think that the price is being hyped in a way that a bit of momentum and press is being generated… The idea is that they will be so cheap that everyone will run and buy one for less! But, when they finally come out, be prepared for it to be too expensive when it gets to retail (for what you get). I would like to think otherwise, but lessons from the past show that distribution ads to pricing and then again retail adds more to pricing… Don’t be surprised if INTEL netbooks are priced in the same ball park (and might be the better deal for some that want to dual boot and run the odd Windows application that they can’t get divorced from).

    Again, we can only wait to be surprised (or not surprised). Time will tell, and my guess is that ARM units will be priced not to far below the Intel netbooks. Just my guess.

    1. How much less is ARM than, say, Atom? The displays, keyboards, RAM, storage won’t differ.

      1. ARM is more integrated. It does not require a sophisticated chipset so there will be some savings, ARM computers generally do not require as much RAM or storage so there is some savings there too. Don’t forget they will not be paying the “windows tax”. It has been discussed that MS is only charging $15, but that is 10% of a $150 machine. The case, keyboard and screen will cost the same.

        1. If cheaper, and more integrated, then why did OLPC decide recently to use the VIA chip (same as was in the 2133) for the XO-1.5? OR, was VIA chosen due to a desire to have dual boot with Windows and the Sugar OS (in order to be able to penetrate some schools that are using Windows, the dual boot might be needed)? However, the 2133 is not very power saving friendly, so it will be interesting to see what OLPC does with the same processor)?

          Anyway, throw in a properly designed ARM system, with OLPC power saving features AND MESH NETWORKING, with Pixel Qi screen… and if all the hype is true, then it will be a long lasting battery, eco-friendly mobile tool for many to use. NEXT then push those same systems with a Pixel Qi (not yet designed 17″ or 19″ screen, and use them as corporate desktops, with battery backup built in). Then, you could power the entire corporate destop IT from solar panels on the roof, or a wind generator. It is pretty windy on top of some building in New York and other cities.

    2. Selling just on price won’t work for ARM anymore than Linux has succeeded on the zero pricetag. But ARM has one trump to play, battery life. If given a choice between a two pound Atom machine with a 2-3 hour life and an ARM one that can go 6-8 it will find customers. Go all out on life and get a 1kg machine with 10 hour life and it will sell well enough even if there is zero price gap compared to a Linux Atom machine. i.e. $50 cheaper than a Atom + XP.

      And the first wave of cheap netbooks, the MIPS ones, are already down to $169 so breaking the $150 price point should be possible come Xmas and the price cutting frenzy that brings.

    3. The prices you linked to are nearly twice Exon’s MSRP – – Profiteering at work?
      If you want high prices – I will sell you my Everex Cloudbook for $1,300. 😉

  2. How much does Intel Atom CPU cost vs. ARM based one?

    When you say “cheaper” the catch is “how much cheaper”.

    P.S. I’d better run Singularity on one of those. Much faster than those bloated Linux distribs.

    1. Could you explain the advantages of Singularity? I think that it is an operating system created by Microsoft employees. Correct?

      1. Singularity is an OS prototype created by Microsoft Research.
        It’s source code can be freely downloaded, compiled and debugged/run under Virtual PC or real hardware.
        It has a little layer of ASM and C++ (for boot loader and HAL). There are different versions of this thiin unmanaged layer for x86, x64 and ARM architectures. Everything else (including drivers) is written in Sing# (C# with some extensions).
        There is Sing#, there are some parts of .Net Framework. But there is no CLR (Common language runtime). The code is not JIT’ed, but compiled to native at the install time. Program installation is mandatory part. You cannot just run some code, it has to be installed (and manifest created). Th installation process includes what can be called as “static compilation on steroids”. Even virtual calls are often inlined!

        The advantages? It’s fast. Context/thread switches are ~10 times faster than any *nix. Compiled Sing# code is very fast too. But the most important part is that in Singularity apps can run FASTER than if they were coded in Assembler, but run under some other OS. Faster then Asm you ask. Yes! When you write mov AX, in Asm, the CPU !always! checks if you have access to this memory. That’s Protected mode. In Singularity it doesn’t. Every program uses memory numerous times so Singularity apps have potential to run faster. But how can they live without protected mode?
        The other advantage is security. The problem with any current OS is that there is too much native code running with high privileges. In Singularity it’s not the case. You cannot just run some unmanaged code (exploit shellcode). You cannot spoil the memory of other process, because there are no words in your language to describe this intention.

        I like the !idea! of Linux, but I’m sick of the implementation and much more of the community. Singularity is different. It’s an OS with a really new concept, not just some popular Minix clone.

          1. Sound like the untersection between Singularity and AIX is nearly empty. The only common part is that they are both OSes.

  3. This announcement convinces me that ARM-powered computers are more than vaporware.

  4. The iphone proved you can successfully sell a non-x86 computing device, if the OS is quality and it supports the hardware properly. Apps need to be available too. This will be a tough nut to crack but the first ARMbook that gets it right stands to sell millions of units.

  5. And if it runs Linux – – –
    Well, the track record they established with FiOS does not
    bode well for you ever seeing the source code short of a court order.

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