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Is ARM Ever Coming To the Desktop? 332

Posted by timothy
from the my-arms-are-there-now dept.
First time accepted submitter bingbangboom writes "Where are the ARM powered desktops? I finally see some desktop models however they are relegated to "developer" models with USD200+ price tags (trimslice, etc). Raspberry Pi seems to be the only thing that will be priced correctly, have the right amount of features, and may actually be released. Is the software side holding ARM desktops back? Everyone seems to be foaming at the mouth about anything with a touch interface, even on the Linux side. Or are manufacturers not wanting to bring the 'netbook effect' to their desktop sales? Are ARM powered desktops destined to join the mythical smartbook?"
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Is ARM Ever Coming To the Desktop?

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  • Why? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dukeblue219 (212029) <[moc.loa] [ta] [912eulbekud]> on Saturday September 24, 2011 @10:09AM (#37501464) Homepage

    Seriously, what is the reason for having a desktop ARM computer? Power consumption? I don't think there's a very large market for people who will settle for tablet-like performance in order to save a few dollars a month at most on electricity compared to existing low power processors. People with power grid problems will want something that runs on a battery anyway, and a tablet/netbook makes more sense there.

    Is it just for something fun to play with? Something small and portable? You can always get a small ARM tablet and hook up the HDMI to a monitor if it's the full size display and keyboard you're missing.

    Not sure what touch interface has to do with anything. That could be just as easily implemented with any architecture, and it's maybe the ONE thing I agree with Steve Jobs about -- touch does NOT work as a viable input method for a desktop.

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rve (4436) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @10:21AM (#37501550)

    I have an ARM based laptop. It's fanless, in fact, it has no moving parts at all other than the hinge of the screen, and goes for a day or two of regular use between recharges. I'm not convinced "the desktop" has much of a long term future at this point... i think it will go the way of the workstation.

  • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @10:21AM (#37501556)

    The people who run tons of software that is x86 only and has no comparable ARM version? People who do work for which ARM is supremely under-powered even with a quad-core version? Even a low end i5 can blow away the fastest ARM processors. This quad-core version will close the gap some, but it will still be far noticeable less performant.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bert64 (520050) <bert@@@slashdot...firenzee...com> on Saturday September 24, 2011 @10:40AM (#37501676) Homepage

    Exactly, no solution fits all... Your needs are specialised, so you will occupy a niche of people who will continue to buy highend workstations...

    For the vast majority of people computers became powerful enough for their requirements many years ago (aside from increasingly bloated software trying to mask that fact), and they are concerned about price, running cost (ie power usage), noise and that the machine is not an eyesore, and even more so are the companies who buy hundreds of desktops for their employees and don't want to buy a noisy, expensive, large and power hungry workstation for someone who's sole business use for it is to write letters.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Saturday September 24, 2011 @10:56AM (#37501750) Journal

    I'm sorry but.....why? WTF would you want ARM on the desktop? Are you living in a mud hut in Zambundi and don't have any electricity to spare for a desktop?

    Lets be honest folks, the big selling point of ARM is how cheap it is on batteries. Well guess what you do NOT need when you are inside? Why that would be a battery! See that plug on the wall right in front of you?

    Cycle for cycle x86 stomps the living shit out of ARM, it just uses more power to do so than most mobiles can afford due to the fact we haven't had a real breakthrough in battery tech in ages. Well that and the fashionistas at Apple have made iSliver batteries the "in" thing in which means you have to power the thing on a battery the width of a tic tac. I don't care if you put 8 cores on the thing, a bottom o' the line AMD quad, even the low power AMD quads, will stomp the living shit out of ARM. drop in an i series and it isn't even funny how badly it gets stomped.

    Like everything else it is about using the right tool for the job. ARM royally kicks ass in mobile, embedded, and in places where you need a device that'll take milspec levels of abuse due to the fact you can run it fanless. X86 kicks ass in desktop and laptop where you want more performance and don't mind giving up some battery life for it. But ARM on the desktop makes about as much sense as stuffing an i series into your phone, that is none at all. The majority of code out there is x86, even on Linux x86 outnumbers ARM code by a pretty wide margin. So unless you just really really REALLY want the Droid version of Angry birds on your desktop it just seems more than a little stupid to be running a mobile chip in a place where you are right beside a plug in.

  • Re:Look on eBay (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mountaineer76 (941902) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @11:23AM (#37501902)
    Totally agree, just compare RISC OS 2 or 3.1 to the equivalent Windows version in 1988 or so, Acorn was streets ahead. Still have a 200 mhz RISC PC sitting next to my desk, it's a nippy little beast boots in a few secs or so....
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @11:25AM (#37501904) Journal

    The majority of code out there is x86, even on Linux x86 outnumbers ARM code by a pretty wide margin.

    This is a bizarre claim, considering the majority of code out there is in C or in higher level languages like Java, Cobol, C# and so on, so technically the processor architecture is irrelevant for most code.

    As to Linux, there are small pieces of the kernel written in assembly, but these have been rewritten so Linux can run on a number of non-x86 platforms. The vast bulk of Linux and its userland tools are written in C, so the underlying architecture is irrelevant. Want to run emacs on an ARM variant of Linux, well, just bloody well compile it for that ARM processor.

  • by jd142 (129673) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @11:35AM (#37501978) Homepage

    I'm sorry but.....why? WTF would you want ARM on the desktop? Are you living in a mud hut in Zambundi and don't have any electricity to spare for a desktop?

    Lets be honest folks, the big selling point of ARM is how cheap it is on batteries. Well guess what you do NOT need when you are inside? Why that would be a battery! See that plug on the wall right in front of you?

    You know, it's just possible some people might want to conserve electricity. Or even shave a couple of bucks off the old electricity bill. Just because you can use a resource, doesn't mean you should. I have running water, but I don't just leave the faucet on all day in case I might want a glass of water.

    I don't know, but if you had one of those little portable solar cells, could you just power an arm laptop anywhere?

  • by wonkavader (605434) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @12:03PM (#37502146)

    I want silence. COMPLETE silence.

    I want a computer you can barely find, it's so small and unobtrusive.

    I want a computer so cool it can be covered in papers and crap without me worrying about it overheating.

    I want devices that are dirt cheap to buy and dirt cheap to run, because I want them in every room, on all the time.

    I want ARM.

  • by Arlet (29997) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @01:06PM (#37502662)

    Making the situation even worse is the fact that there is a complete lack of standardization on the ARM platform, especially for all the peripherals. But even for the core itself there are many different variants. This can be an advantage for embedded developers, because it gives you lots of choices.

    For binary software vendors, it's a nightmare, because they would have to support all these different versions.

  • by m50d (797211) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @01:20PM (#37502746) Homepage Journal

    This is a bizarre claim, considering the majority of code out there is in C or in higher level languages like Java, Cobol, C# and so on, so technically the processor architecture is irrelevant for most code.

    Speaking as someone who has ported an actually quite well written (relatively) game interpreter from x86 to arm: bwahahaha. For java/C# it's feasible (although even then, four out of five programs will require at least some superficial code changes), but porting anything written in C is going to be a headache at best, and more likely a complete nightmare - and that goes doubly for C++ actually, at least the way it's commonly written.

  • Re:Nope (Score:1, Insightful)

    by macpacheco (1764378) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @01:34PM (#37502846)

    >Not only does Windows 8 and the upcomming Office run on ARM, there is already a production ready ARM laptop that's going to be sold.
    >Image larger than iPad battery life and weeks of standby, a full HD resolution, accelerated x264 full HD video playback. Internet Explorer 10 full acceleration and DX11.

    Right design, wrong operating system. Scratch Windows, add Linux.
    I have been running Linux only on x86 for the last 12 years.
    In the last few, I even got rid of flash and other proprietary binary only linux software.
    I don't want an ARM desktop, I want an ARM laptop (not a tablet, not a netbook).
    The only external connections I would like to see that would make my laptop feel like a desktop is many e-sata connectors, so I can hook up many external hard drives when I'm home/in the office, and no, gigabit ethernet isn't a replacement for that.
    So I could go 100% Linux/ARM. Specially since we'd expect using an NVidia Kal El CPU, that NVidia would release an ARM version of their proprietary graphics driver, and that's if nouveau isn't almost perfect by then.

  • by m50d (797211) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @04:04PM (#37503940) Homepage Journal
    ARM is admittedly easier than many things - you're still 32-bit and usually don't have endianess issues. So the main problems are sizes/alignment of system data structures - things like (network) host information, or even something as simple as date/time vary. Of course you should be using the types opaquely, but it's very easy to accidentally stuff a time_t into an int, and even if you are being careful you can miss implicit assumptions you're making (one of the problems I saw was code not dealing with an array in the network host data structure being of length 0). In this particular case the biggest source of problems was multibyte character handling differences (it was a Japanese game). When porting old code away from x86 you can also get a whole slew of floating-point related bugs, because double on x86 is really x87 extended double (I only encountered one minor problem in this case, it didn't do much floating point, but for other software it would be a bigger issue). Also see the recent glibc memcpy vs memmove issues for something that can come up even on x86-64 vs x86-64.

    Once code's been ported to two or three architectures these problems don't tend to come up any more (because the first couple of changes reveal all your implicit assumptions that could be broken), and that's true of a lot of open source projects. But any code that's only ever run on one platform will have portability issues. You don't have to take my word for it - try it yourself, pick a random project that doesn't release non-x86 builds off sourceforge and try and build it for arm.

  • by RR (64484) on Sunday September 25, 2011 @04:21AM (#37506752)
    I was aware of the N900. I still use an N800. I just didn't need an upgrade yet, and I was waiting for step 5 of the 5-step mass market process for Maemo (becoming concerned about bureaucratic interference when Meego became the company's strategy and they decided to dump Debian for Linux Foundation silliness), when the Elop Effect [blogs.com] happened. So, no, I don't think the N900 was successful.

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