Talk about a potential turnaround. As it currently stands, some 90 percent of ultra-mobile devices (UMDs) shipped in 2009 sport a x86 processor inside, leaving little room for other architectures. But according to ABI Research, the introduction of ARM-based systems is set to shake things up, and in a big way. ABI says that by 2013, UMD shipments of netbooks, MIDs, smartbooks, and UMPCs based on the ARM architecture will jump ahead of x86-based devices.
"The important netbook segment of the UMD market is now moving into its second generation, and a growing number of netbooks based on ARM platforms are now appearing in the market, a trend no doubt helped by the perception that ARM-based systems are heavily oriented towards an 'always connected' mode of operation," ABI Research says. "Additionally, ARM-based products are coming out in a growing variety of different form-factors including tablets."
Jeff Orr, a senior analyst with ABI, describes the movement as "not a tidal wave, but a rising tide." He's referring to the growing number of laptops and netbooks with embedded or attached modems, which have contributed to a "significantly greater amount of traffic to 3G networks than smartphones do," a further sign that ARM processors are taking over, he says.