[Arm-netbook] AMD considering releasing the PSP

Paul Boddie paul at boddie.org.uk
Mon Mar 13 20:31:23 GMT 2017

On Monday 13. March 2017 18.13.37 Hendrik Boom wrote:
> > 
> > x86.  part-hardware-emulated x86 fine (like the Loongson 3H
> > architecture did), non-x86, fine.  pure x86: dying and dead very soon.
> Intel already tried that a *long* time ago, with the Itanium.  It was
> provided with software that emulated the x86.  But AMD made a 64-bit
> hardware version of the x86 and took over the market because its hardware
> outran the emulation on the Itanium, forcing Intel to follow suit or lose
> the Windows market.

Itanium was something of a special case, being of Hewlett-Packard origins and 
employing an instruction set architecture that arguably made life more 
difficult for tool developers. Itanium was a fiasco for quite a few hardware 
manufacturers who bet big on it being a success, especially those who 
abandoned their own technologies.

Besides, it was said that the big performance gains in the more recent era of 
x86 were due to effectively delivering a RISC-style CPU and employing an x86 
instruction-recoding front-end, although I don't personally have any 
familiarity with this. There's an interesting remark about such things on the 
Cyrix 6x86 Wikipedia page:

"The 6x86 is superscalar and superpipelined and performs register renaming, 
speculative execution, out-of-order execution, and data dependency removal. 
However, it continued to use native x86 execution and ordinary microcode only, 
like Centaur's Winchip, unlike competitors Intel and AMD which introduced the 
method of dynamic translation to micro-operations with Pentium Pro and K5."


> Is the situation different now?  With an ARM version of Windows, and
> Microsoft's now proven ability to port Wondows to new architectures, quite
> possibly.

The difference is where the market is. It was arguably the strength of the 
relationship between Microsoft and Intel that kept both of them dominant in 
the conventional computing market, and that led to Microsoft's reliance on 
x86, even though NT was intended for and delivered for other architectures 
(i860, MIPS, Alpha, PowerPC). But Microsoft has had to adapt to the market and 
isn't able to define what people want any more in various areas.

What matters a lot more now is the power consumption and performance/power 
ratio. AMD's new processors look interesting, for instance, but there's a big 
gap between their power numbers and the kind of numbers you see for SoCs being 
delivered in huge volumes for things like phones. And even Intel's offerings 
have punished AMD for that in recent years.

I imagine that AMD wants to exercise its option to make x86-compatible 
products as much as possible, given that few other companies are legally 
clearly allowed to do so, but that could easily make the company oblivious to 
opportunities elsewhere.


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