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Evolving Market for Mobile Media Devices

The processor vendors supplying semiconductors for ultra-mobile devices (UMDs) are playing a pivotal role in how this market is shaping up. The family of X86-based processors are well entrenched in the PC world and ARM-based processors are well entrenched in the mobile handset world.

Since UMDs sit right between the PCs and handsets in terms of power, size, and function, x86-based and ARM-based processors will compete in the UMD space -- and are already competing in vendor marketing battles.

ABI Research principal analyst Philip Solis says, "x86-based processor vendors are in a very good position in the near term as far as product wins and market share are concerned.

However, as mobile internet devices (MIDs) start to surpass netbooks in shipment volumes, ARM-based solutions will be in a better position."

Processors based on the x86 architecture -- available from vendors such as Via Technologies and Intel -- hold a key advantage in that they are compatible with all x86-based applications – the same PC applications most people use today.

Since they evolved in a more portable and mobile device world, ARM-based processors have always excelled at low power consumption. For devices such as MIDs that may be used very heavily all day or may need to last for days without recharging, ARM-based processors hold the advantage.

The x86 vendors will have to make significant advancements in terms of power consumption while executing instructions in order to put up a better fight across the whole UMD space, while ARM is working with software vendors to ensure that as they develop processor architectures and instruction sets, the latest versions of software are compatible.

The future shape of this market will be determined by engineering success on the x86 side versus business success on the ARM side. But, the market for mobile media devices, overall, is still evolving in the same way that Pocket PCs did over time.

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