Will Antel Defeat Wintel?

For years, "Wintel" dominated the world of computing -- Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) operating system, Windows, ran PCs powered by Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC  ) processors. The rise of mobile computing has pressured the Wintel platform, but among traditional PCs, Wintel is alive and well.

A new paradigm, however, could be about to emerge -- Antel. Intel's new Bay Trail chips allow for 64-bit Android, meaning that Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) Android operating system could be about to get far more powerful -- perhaps powerful enough to cannibalize the bulk of Wintel's market.

Mobile goes 64-bit
Apple characterizes its iPhone 5s as "forward thinking" -- its 64-bit A7 chip packs more power than most mobile computing tasks require. Although Apple claims that the A7 chip is twice as fast as the A6x, the advantages of that new chip won't be realized for some time. Most notably, 64-bit mobile devices can utilize more than 4 GB of ram, a limitation that would've eventually halted the progress of mobile computing.

But with more than 80% of the smartphone market and 60% of the tablet market (and growing), Google's Android is far more significant. Although there are no 64-bit devices running Google's Android today, that will change in the near future.

That will be possible because of Intel's new Bay Trail processor. At Intel's investor meeting last week, the company's management said that Bay Trail will powering 64-bit Android devices next year, including some tablets costing less than $150.

Admittedly, Intel isn't the only chip manufacturing working on making a 64-bit version of Google's operating system a reality. NVIDIA's Tegra 6 could power 64-bit Android devices, while Qualcomm's management is planning to make the transition to 64-bit in the future. Still, Intel is the first company to openly promise 64-bit Android.

Coming in 2014: larger tablets?
Perhaps one of those 64-bit Android devices will be a larger Samsung tablet. The Korean tech giant is said to be working on a larger, 12-inch Android tablet to be released next year. At first, a 12-inch tablet may seem excessively large -- the largest tablets on the market today are only 10.1 inches; but a 12-inch display would be useful for those who want their tablet to function more like a laptop. It might also sport one of Intel's processors -- Samsung has been one of few hardware makers to utilize an Intel chip in one of its tablets.

Consider Asus' new Transformer Book Trio. The device is a tablet running Google's Android with a keyboard dock that sports Microsoft's Windows. Detach the screen from the dock, and you have an 11.6-inch tablet; attach it, and you have a full-featured Ultrabook running Microsoft's PC operating system.

In that case, both operating systems are necessary -- Microsoft's Windows for a powerful, laptop experience; Google's Android for a robust mobile computing environment.

How many PCs will mobile devices replace?
But how much longer will Microsoft's Windows be necessary? The market for Wintel devices has already begun to collapse, as many users are turning to smartphones and tablets for their computing needs. PC shipments are at historic lows, and the demand for mobile devices is continuing to increase -- in fact, research firm Canalsys now expects manufacturers to ship an equal number of tablets and traditional PCs next year.

As Google's Android becomes more powerful, gaining 64-bit processing prowess with chips like Intel's Bay Trail, the need to rely on Microsoft's Windows could slowly evaporate. Certainly, some users will still need Microsoft's operating system, but it'll be a much smaller number going forward.

Analysts at Gartner stunned tech observers earlier this year by predicting that Google's Android would make Microsoft's Windows irrelevant by 2017. Well, that prediction is looking more and more likely every day.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 10:50 PM, doawithlife wrote:

    Time to learn the difference between cpus:

    A cpu has electronic slots to hold information. As example with x86 a 64-bit cpu holds 21 slots of info while a 32-bit cpu holds 20 slots of info. Many of those slots have a job. A slot could be a trigger place, by turning "on" that slot you can then "push" a variable held in another slot to accomplish some task.

    x86 and ARM have fundamentally different slot structure. If I were to say attempt a push with a x86 binary program on an ARM cpu, the cpu would misread the program as the slots do not line up(we are talking binary numbers here - in hex sets, putting them in the wrong place really causes problems). It will just crash.

    Because of these fundamental differences, comparing an ARM cpu to an x86 CPU in terms of performance is very flawed. At the lowest level a 4 core x86 cpu running at 1GHz per core will always out run a 4 core ARM cpu with 1GHz per core.

    A little more in detail:

    In most cases, you exit from the binary language during boot up and load a shell and kernel. Generally at that point your computer will load programming that acts as an interpreter. That program will now take C language and convert it to binary (at a loss of speed). C is used as a host language to run other languages on your computer. Everytime you run a java program, that program will be converted to C and then converted to binary/hex. This causes some pretty large losses of speed. Every additional level causes yet another slow down. As a small work around programmers will inject binary into other coding as a way to overcome major bottle necks. This does not solve the problem by any means, but it does give us a chance to remove the worst effects.

    Everytime we do that, it causes problems with porting a game/program from x86 to ARM (doesn't matter if it is 32-bit or 64-bit).

    Another issue. ARM based CPU's are not as versitile as an x86 cpu in terms of the info they can hold. This causes ARM cpu's to move information slower then an x86 cpu. Saying a cpu has 1GHz frequency is its speed it does say how much load it has. As example, an ARM cpu would be like a motorcycle, it can still go 100+ MPH but you can only carry a handful of books on the back. On the other hand, an x86 cpu would be more like a sports car, it can go the same speeds as the motorcycle but it can carry a dozens of books each trip. Meaning it moves that information(book) faster.

    Differences between 32-bit and 64-bit (which has nothing to do with ARM or x86):

    32-bit has 20 slots for information as I stated earlier. During the boot process of say Windows 64-bit this is what happens. First the computer loads the binary bootsector from your hard drive. That binary bootsector helps the computer load the kernel, shell, and in most cases it loads the C language as an interpreter. At that point the computer gathers information like sector size, cpu driver, and total memory size plus it moves from a 16-bit state to a 32-bit state. Once you are in a 32-bit state you can then tell the cpu to turn on the 21st slot and then you can move to 64-bit.

    As you can see all 64-bit cpu's are also 32-bit cpus and 16-bit cpus and 8-bit and so on. 64-bit is the fastest, because it can move the largest haul with each pass through(it has an extra slot, and that causes exponential growth mathematically - or you can access a lot mor memory). 64-bit cpu's easily run 32-bit programs, they essentially turn off that last slot and run the program as it is designed. But this means we are not realizing the full potential of the 64-bit cpu, it never carries it's full load of information.

    The real problem though, 64-bit programs use 21 slots. How does a 32-bit cpu deal with that? By making multiple trips for what would only cost the 64-bit cpu one trip. That means if a programmer makes a killer game for a 64-bit system, people on a 32-bit system would lag like crazy(even though both cpu's are 6 core and 3.6GHz per core).

    Bottom line:

    x86 is faster then ARM, always.

    64-bit is faster then 32-bit, mostly. Someday when we finish converting to 64-bit, 64-bit will be much faster always.

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 10:53 PM, doawithlife wrote:

    *Saying a cpu has 1GHz frequency is its speed it does say how much load it has

    change that to

    "Saying a cpu has 1GHz frequency is its speed it doesn't say how much load it has"

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 11:18 PM, doawithlife wrote:

    Now, How does 64-bit/32-bit work with ARM/x86:

    I already stated in my earlier post that ARM and x86 has differing slot structure for holding information. To slightly overcome this both ARM and x86 tend to load C as an interpreter. That helps with some programs, but not all (as I explained earlier). Where it really changes things is on the OS side of things. This is why an ARM device wont be able to run Windows 8 PRO (or any "PC" version of Windows or say OSx). Windows is built with the programmers injecting binary to overcome bottlenecks. Windows is based on C, but those binary injections means it can not run on an ARM device(at least without some major modding and it would run slow as H).

    Windows as a solution came up with Windows RT(the equivalent of iOS). Windows RT has injected binary, but that binary is written for an ARM cpu. That is why Windows RT devices(or the Ipad) are not considered hybrid devices.

    A hybrid device runs off an x86 cpu that has the ability to also run ARM binary without a huge speed loss. ARM cpus will never be able to run x86 binary well. ARM cpus do not have the slots available to hold all that info.

  • Report this Comment On November 28, 2013, at 11:21 PM, doawithlife wrote:

    bit size is something that ARM and x86 both have in common. They can both run with 20 slots or 21 slots. That 21st slot is he only difference between 64-bit and 32-bit.

    ARM and x86 just use the slots differently

  • Report this Comment On November 29, 2013, at 1:30 AM, GuitarJim wrote:

    @doawithlife, you don't know what you're talking about. No CPU runs C language programs through an interpreter. C and all dialects derived from it are compiled into machine code - what you refer to as "binary" - by the programmer who wrote the program, and the CPU executes them as native code. One minor exception is C#, which is compiled into interpreted pseudo code, which is processor independent, but the vast majority of programs are NOT written in C#. It's clunky and slow, and requires a massive runtime library. It's main advantage is for enterprise applications where development time needs to be minimized, and the IT department needs to manage people's access to networked resources.

    Slot structure? Seriously? Where did you come up with that garbage? It's true that machine code for an x86 is not compatible with machine code for an ARM or any other processor, but it's not because of some "slot structure". I can't even begin to explain how wrong you are about this, but suffice it to say you've obviously never studied CPU architecture, much less programmed one in assembly language.

  • Report this Comment On November 29, 2013, at 7:16 AM, alan0101 wrote:

    So, geeks above, net net what's the headline?

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