The CEO of Cambridge-based chip designer ARM has declared yesterday that it will be aiming to be the dominant player in the netbook market, a segment which Warren East reckons may make up to 90 percent of the computer market over the next few years.
ARM has managed to build an ecosystem that allows it to be almost invulnerable to any rivals - including Intel - and the fact that Apple has apparently joined its growing army of supporters is a tribute to the stunning job the guys at ARM have achieved.
Yet, outside the embedded market and that of smartphones, ARM is little known and little used. Here are five things the British company behind Acorn needs to do to change it.
(1) Consumer marketing
Back in September 2009, we said that ARM needs to embark on a campaign to inform the consumers about what it is and what it represents.
Intel did it fantastically well with the Intel Inside campaign and Centrino (complete with the immediately recognisable jingle). This can be done by creating a substantial marketing fund. ARM just have to follow Intel's path and recruit big ad-spending partners.
(2) Recruit more end-user members
ARM has a huge number of what it calls "Connected Community Members" which are the building blocks of the ARM ecosystem. Think of them as distributions in a Linux world and there are 545 of them in all (with quite a few not listed).
Some of them are well known (Nvidia, Sun, Samsung or Toshiba) but the overwhelming number of them are unknown quantities. Compare that with Google's Open Handset Alliance whose list of members reads like a who's who of the telecommunications and mobile world.
ARM will have to improve the quality of its membership by recruiting more end users companies like LG and Sony and make sure that the existing ones become proud of their ARM memberships. Oh and while you are at it, study the 1991 masterclass by Intel Marketing when the Intel Inside coop campaign started.
(3) Launch high profile products
Google has launched the Nexus One not only as a proof of concept (that it can indeed make smartphones) but we suspect, as a way of telling its partners to be more innovative and bold.
Maybe ARM needs to do something similar, work on a number of product blueprints that could be trendsetters and inspire its partners and arouse the curiosity of the specialised press, in other words, create an iPhone-like buzz, even if no ARM products per se are ever launched.
(4) Continue courting microsoft
Microsoft could potentially move away from the x86 platform if it wanted to. After all, it did produce Windows OSes for a number of obscure platforms like DEC Alpha, MIPS and Power PC back 13 years ago.
It could, if it wanted to, port Windows 7 to an ARM platform. But then, there's Windows Mobile which is already running there and with Windows Mobile 7 a few months away from a formal launch, it is very unlikely that a native, full fledged Windows 7 OS will ever appear on ARM.
Now here's the killer detail; Windows 7 Mobile was initially supposed to be released back in Q1 2009 but will almost certainly reach us more than one year late.
Why the delay? Windows 7? Already released was ready since June 2009, Office 2010? Ditto, ready for quite some times. We wonder whether Microsoft is not going to up the Ante with Windows Mobile 7 by making it become a quasi "Windows 7" without the x86 compatibility.
(5) Move Away From Mobile
ARM needs to be more aggressive when it comes to the desktop and server markets. Its latest Cortex A9 solution could, for the first time ever, power everything from smartphones to mainframes by altering a number of parameters (cache, speed, cores).
Netbooks are a great market but it is not where the big money is and if ARM wants to truly compete with Intel, it will need sooner or later to propose more solutions and faster. As we said last September "Intel has the human resource to do just that, whereas ARM, which has only 1700 employees doesn't have the bandwidth to do that right now."
You might want to read the Pegatron smartbook preview we did last August (yep, nearly six months ago now), read between the lines of our interview with ARM's President, Tudor Brown and see what we think of the Cortex A9 here.