ARM boss pushes for massive laptop market share

Tudor Brown, president of British chip design giant ARM, has high hopes for his company's chances in the Intel-dominated laptop market: he expects to pocket no less than 40 per cent market share by 2015.

Brown's enthusiastic prediction came to light in an interview with DigiTimes, along with the claim that ARM's share of the tablet market will sit at around 85 per cent in 2015 despite rival Intel's attempts to unseat it in what is proving a very lucrative category.

During the interview, Brown admitted that previous attempts to launch ARM-based laptop-like devices such as the so-called 'smartbook' range failed due to overly high expectations from consumers. Microsoft's decision to add ARM support to Windows 8 has changed all that, Brown claimed.

Brown's comments come shortly after Microsoft showed a select group attending Computex some pre-production Windows 8 devices, including laptops featuring ARM-based processors from companies including Qualcomm. While Microsoft's support will certainly help ARM break in to the laptop market, there are those who question the importance of such a move.

One such person is ARM's own vice president of market Ian Drew, who believes that the laptop and desktop markets are practically a non-issue for the company. In an interview with thinq_, Drew claimed that "the desktop market is tiny - around six per cent - so it's not something we're massively focused on."

Drew also explained that ARM wouldn't be running a marketing campaign to rival Intel's 'Intel Inside' badge scheme, pointing to the massively high running costs. "Do you know how much Intel spends on their Intel Inside programme? More than my revenue," he joked.

As with much of ARM's marketing, the push that could lead to Brown's predicted 40 per cent market share by 2015 will have to come from its partners. Speaking to thinq_ at Computex last week, Qualcomm vice president Terry Yen confirmed that his company would be focusing on Windows 8 ARM-based laptops as "one of our biggest growth opportunities in the next five years."

While Drew has ruled out an 'ARM Inside' badge, it's not inconceivable that a partner may want to run a similar branding exercise. While the scale would have to be smaller than Intel's all-encompassing branding, it's easy to imagine Qualcomm convincing OEMs and ODMs to stick a 'Snapdragon Inside' badge on their hardware in exchange for a hefty discount.

Drew argues that such branding is unnecessary, and even counter-productive. "I think that consumers should be able to buy a product without worrying about the logo on the front," Drew explained, claiming that the functionality - rather than the underlying technology - should be at the forefront of a buyer's mind.

While ARM and its licensees may not see eye to eye on the precise way forward, one thing is clear: ARM laptops are just on the horizon, and promise to give a largely stagnant market its biggest shake-up since the Zilog Z80 went away.