ARM/x86 hybrid PC announced

September 13, 2010 | 10:40

Tags: #arm-cortex #cortex #cortex-a8 #hybrid #omap #x86

Companies: #arm #cupp #texas-instruments

The ARM architecture has much to recommend it over x86 for many uses, not least of which is the extremely low power draw of ARM-based processors, but there's one thing which has kept it from the desktop: lack of Windows support. That could change, with CUPP Computing announcing a hybrid system it calls, for no immediately discernable reason, a Computicator.

The all-in-one PC, which the Norwegian company describes as a demo platform for its patented hybrid technology, combines an Intel Core Duo 2.3GHz processor with dedicated 4GB RAM with a Texas Instruments OMAP 3430 ARM Cortex A8-based processor running at 720MHz with its own 512MB RAM. A single 320GB hard disk and 16" LCD display are shared between both platforms, as is a keyboard and trackpad along with HDMI output and three USB ports.

At its heart, then, it's two computers with a few shared components, but it's the closest thing to an ARM-based desktop likely to make it in to the average person's home or office. CUPP claims that by integrating the ARM processor into the southbridge, a technique for which it owns a patent, it's possible to "deliver functionality previously impractical in a personal computer, and [gives] users the flexibility to use the PC in ways that best suits their needs."

The company isn't above dropping the green card, either, claiming that "if implemented on a wide scale, this technology would have a significant impact on global power consumption."

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of CUPP's hybrid system is that both the x86 and the ARM subsystems are active at the same time: an innovative ALT-TAB-style system allows a users to flick between Windows 7 Professional on the Core Duo and Ubuntu LXDE Linux on the TI ARM on the fly with no reboot required.

Although the company has stated its plans to "bring a product to market [by] Q2 [2011]," it's not yet clear what product will appear: although the testbed design is based around a notebook, it's likely that the company will look to an all-in-one desktop for its first real product.

For those curious to see the demo unit in action, the company has posted a series of videos on its YouTube page.

Do you think that hybrid devices such as CUPP's Computicator could be the push ARM needs to make it back into the desktop market, or does it offer too little advantage to the consumer to make a purchase worthwhile? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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