Tech Industry

ARM: PC software's a drag (on batteries)

Intel may have lots of PC software developers at the ready for new mobile devices, but software for handhelds requires a different train of thought, according to ARM.

It's true: You can't run software developed for PCs on ARM-based smart phones. The company's all right with that.

"In (this) category, it's still fundamentally about low power and battery life, and our ecosystem understands that and knows how to optimize for that," said Kerry McGuire, director of strategic alliances for mobile computing for ARM, the chip designer that dominates the mobile phone industry. "The power footprint associated with those PC apps will really drain your battery."

Lines are being drawn for the next big battle in the computer industry, and ARM and Intel are finding themselves on opposite sides. This week during the Intel Developer Forum, the world's largest chip maker took aim at ARM, pointing out that Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) based on its Silverthorne processor will have a ton of software ready to use, since Silverthorne's just an x86 chip like the Core 2 Duo or Athlon 64.

But McGuire contends that most of those applications weren't written for an environment where battery life is perhaps the most important consideration. She also disputed comments made by Intel's Anand Chandrasekher that applications written for ARM can run into compatibility issues across different classes of mobile devices that use the same ARM chip.

ARM's gearing up for its annual developer's conference in Santa Clara, Calif., Intel's hometown. The company says that its software advantage lies in the experience those developers have accumulated writing applications for ARM chips across several different operating systems, like Windows Mobile, Symbian and Linux. Also, as more and more applications are delivered over the Internet, ARM thinks the vast amount of available PC development tools and experience will be less and less of an advantage.

Expect to hear a lot more about this in the coming months and years. Smart phones are getting more powerful, and PCs are getting smaller. What do people really want in a handheld mobile computer?