domingo, 28 de agosto de 2011

Will ARM get to sweep X86 (and take WIndows to hell along with it)?


I've been very interested in ARM developments since a couple of years ago when it looked like ARM netbooks were just about to be released and kick x86 out of the market (at least on netbooks). A lot of things didn't happen since then, don't you agree? A lot of speculation about how Microsoft got to influence potential manufacturers has been thrown around... but anyway, fact of the matter is that they were never released.

During the last month a couple of things have happened that are making me think that ARM is going to become a major headache for the (already kind of broken) Wintel monopoly (duopoly? whatever!).

First, I helped solve a printing problem involving three cheap printers. First we tried to solve the problem connecting all 3 printers to a single computer (some PC) and almost got to get the whole thing working... the only problem was that only one of the printers would print reliably and the other 2 would refuse to make it all of the times. Workaround? Bought 3 dreamplug servers, connected a single printer to each one of the servers, ran a couple of commands* and, voilà!, problem solved.

Here's a picture of the whole set up (will upload a higher resolution pic when I get it):

On the left of the desk you can see all 3 printers and each printer's dreamplug master right on top of each one, see?

Now.... this was a rather simple fix, each server is kind of cheap (specially compared with a fully fledged computer) and, on top of that, these beauties will keep the electricity bill low (as they all put together eat a lot less than a computer). To me, this spells trouble ahead for Intel (and Windows, though they are at the top on servers will see a ferocious battle with GNU/Linux on the not-so-short term) as it means that people will have yet another simple comoditized option different from a PC to solve problems.

And if that was not enough, then I see this today:

Full article where I got it from here.

Now, this is not a PC. This is an ARM-based platform that is expected to start selling by the end of the year... and at US$ 25 a pop.

About 2 years ago I thought ARM was about to kick butt (back then)... boy, was I wrong.... but given these two events I told you about, I don't think it's too crazy to believe that this is going to make a major dent on Intel and Microsoft (given that Microsoft is years from releasing/stabilizing their ARM port of Windows... and I'm not talking about WP7 or Windows CE, of course) in the not-so-distant future. Only time will tell.

PS Oh, and did I say that apparently Canonical is throwing a lot of its weight on ARM too? Interesting times ahead of us.

* As a matter of fact, getting the printer to work took a little work. The splix drivers (they are cheap samsung printers) were not available for the model of the printers we were using (on updated debian) but we knew ubuntu did have it available so, after a little trying and trying we ended up compiling the ubuntu splix driver's source on the dreamplugs to get them running (the source of the drivers I got from a normal netbook running kubuntu natty and placed them on the dreamplug for compilation).  A little scripting here and there and they were finally printing the way we wanted them to.

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