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Is ARM Ever Coming To the Desktop? 332

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 24, 2011 @10:08AM (#37501452)

    Waiting for the release of Tegra 3 Kal-El quad-core equipped Asus Transformer 2 tabtop as a low power general purpose device that I can keep powered on all the time to replace a much more power hungry x86 machine.

  • Archimedes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rve ( 4436 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @10:11AM (#37501482)

    It was on the desktop first [wikipedia.org]. I was a kid, not terribly good with money, and it was expensive, so I just missed out on being an early adopter.

  • EOMA Initiative (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Saturday September 24, 2011 @10:21AM (#37501548) Homepage

    it's a long story, but i've been working to get ARM-powered desktop machines and laptops into the hands of free software developers for some time.

    one of the key problems are that the chinese and taiwanese factories have absolutely no software expertise whatsoever. some guy decides he got caught out by the USA and UK Governments placing embargos and tariffs on imported clothes a couple years back: his business was affected, so he goes "i know, i'll diversify, i'll make tablets, those are popular". so off he goes, he gets supplied with a GPL-violating Android OS right from the word "go" by a limited number of Chinese ODMs who are having a really hard time keeping hold of their software engineers, and it just goes downhill from there.

    the other problem is, as can be seen from the insane amount of money spent by the openpandora group, that case-work for laptops etc. can well be in excess of $100,000. that means that anything like the "pegatron netbook" has to be bought in volumes of 250,000 and above in order for the R&D costs to be amortised over a reasonable period.

    this is where the EOMA initiative comes in: http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture/PCMCIA [elinux.org]

    by reversing everything on its head, and getting free software developers a modular architecture which _could_ be dropped into a mass-volume product, the tables are turned: those Chinese Factories can be supplied *by us* - Free Software Developers - with a completed ready-to-ship OS.

    so, yes there's a board which is available that is similar in size and function to the pandaboard, origen exynos board, beagleboard, IMX53QSB etc., but unlike those boards, by complying to the EOMA/PCMCIA Open Standard it would be possible to literally drop that hardware-software combination straight into a mass-volume product, with the development effort of the required motherboard being nothing more than a low-cost 2 to 4 layer board that even KiCAD, Eagle or gEDA could do.

    one key part of this strategy is to leverage arduino-like boards, like the leafpad Maple:
    http://elinux.org/Embedded_Open_Modular_Architecture/PCMCIA/MiniEngineeringBoard [elinux.org]

    anyway i think that's enough for one slashdot post. bit of background and some additional links, here:
    http://www.openhardwaresummit.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=502 [openhardwaresummit.org]

  • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @11:08AM (#37501824)
    The Zacate is availible for desktop setups. Motherboard with zacate integrated goes for $100-$120, with RAM, PSU, HD and a shoebox for chassi you get a decent windows computer for $200.

    That however is quite a bit in excess of the $35 the Raspberry Pi is supposed to sell for. At that pricepoint you can almost start putting them everywhere before knowing why you're putting them everywhere.
  • Re:Look on eBay (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 24, 2011 @12:04PM (#37502156)

    I find it funny, yet sad, that people have forgotten that the A in ARM used to stand for Acorn. I was there, in Cambridge, during the time of the first ARM CPU's development. Friends of friends of the people who worked to create it. At the time it was by far the most powerful desktop and it's various OSs (RISC OS 2+.. Arthur was always a stop-gap OS :) ) were far advanced over everything else available at the time.

    I still use a RISC PC today. Also, one of the best case designs ever - it's practically infinitely expandable!

  • Re:EOMA Initiative (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Saturday September 24, 2011 @12:30PM (#37502342) Homepage

    ok - i'm pleased to see a response here: there are several points that are good, and some are, when you look closer, turn out to be unrealistic for mass-volume so-called "embedded" products.

    1) the first is form-factor. this is great! yes, one of the options being considered is to have a standard Mini-ATX/ITX motherboard (into which an EOMA/PCMCIA CPU card can be plugged, at the back). there are several embedded companies that produce Mini ATX motherboards as standard, for their "modules", so it is not a new concept, it is in fact a proven one.

    2) the second is connectors / interfaces. if you look right across the board at the very latest ARM processors coming out *right now*, you can count the number of Cortex A8 and Cortex A9 systems (as well as Marvell's "ARM-compatible" range of processors) that have PCI-e on the fingers of one hand.

    i'll say that again.

    the total number of modern ARM processors with even a 1x PCI-e interface is *below* 5 (five).

    now there do exist some Cortex A8s (e.g. the OMAP35xx series) which have a HPI bus, onto which you could put a PCI-e "PHY" chip as it's called, but the total number of companies doing actual PCI-e "PHY" chips is, also, very very limited. typically, any company which has PCI-e PHY interface is a "Fabless Semi" company that gets bought up very very rapidly by the likes of Mentor Graphics, Synopsys and so on.

    3) the third is the sheer overwhelming disparity between the ARM CPU's power consumption and the average PCI-e-based GPU's power consumption. the absolute ABSOLUTE lowest power consumption PCI-e-based GPU i could find is one from SiS, it's an older 65nm CMOS process, and if you ramp its speed down to the absolute lowest it will go without keeling over, it uses 6 watts. SIX watts!! you wanna connect a 6 watt GPU up to a 0.5 to 1.0 watt processor be my guest!

    4) Multi-layer boards at ATX/ITX form-factor are expensive. if you have the CPU on-board the Motherboard (rather than being on a separate card), you then are forced to have the most complex part - the CPU-to-RAM interface - push up the number of layers required for the *whole* motherboard. by contrast, if you do the CPU-plus-RAM as a separate tiny, tiny board, just presenting its interfaces (SATA, ETH, USB, I2C, RGB/TTL etc.) via a simple connector (e.g. PCMCIA 68-pin) then you've just saved a fortune on the cost of the main motherboard because the main motherboard PCB can be done as an ultra-low-cost 4 or even if you're really lucky or a very good designer as a 2 layer board.

    5) The power requirements of standard PCs are 10 to 200x larger than is actually needed! 500 to 1000 watts i mean for fuck's sake that's just insane. these ARM processors, the fastest most powerful one available on the market right now (sampling) is the NuSmart 2816, and that uses _two_ watts (shock horror) at 2ghz. wow big fucking deal. why on god's green earth would you want to match a 2 watt CPU with a 1000 watt Power Supply?? the entire motherboard would probably need a big resistor just to draw enough current in order to convince the PSU that nothing's wrong! i'm not joking about that - i'm dead serious.

    6) The level of integration on these so-called ARM "embedded" CPUs is so high that it's really not worth the effort. present a USB bus, present an Ethernet port, present an SATA socket, along with an HDMI out and maybe even VGA, you're done! ship the damn product out the door, it cost you $35 to make! don't believe that price? just look at the cost of the RaspberryPi - it's doable. the irony is that for $35 of the "upgraded" RaspberryPi you can get an 800mhz Cortex A9 with an AML-8726-M (single core) for the same price. and the same size. credit-card-sized. you have to ask yourself: why would you _want_ to fit a credit-card-sized computer into a 12 x 15 x 8in "Desktop" case?? :) why not fit it into a 4in x 5in x 0.75in box, instead?

    so, whilst on the face of it, fitting into the "standard" - i'm going to go further than that i'm going to

  • by BitterKraut ( 820348 ) on Saturday September 24, 2011 @01:00PM (#37502620)
    BAFTA video: http://bcove.me/tux4wa2x [bcove.me] The part most pertaining to the current thread is at 14:32

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.