ARM becomes the third major player in the CPU market

The second rival for Intel will be low-power specialist and darling of the British technology industry, ARM. We reckon Intel may be left with egg on its face after attempting to drum up interest in lower-power Atom processors in the smartphone market. What's more, Intel could also feel as if it's woken a sleeping giant when ARM starts eating away at Intel’s lucrative dominance of the server market.

This is a bold prediction, and we aren’t saying that it will happen quickly. A move from x86 to ARM isn’t straightforward, after all, but ARM’s Cortex-A15 Eagle CPU and GPGPU-friendly Mali graphics processor demonstrate ARM’s clear focus on stealing the many-core, low-power server market away from Intel. Not even laptops and desktops will be safe, with products already announced that swap Intel’s chips for ARM’s much more power-friendly designs.

Intel should be worried about this, despite chief executive Paul Otellini’s protestations to the contrary. It’s the first time in years that there’s been several companies that could potentially beat Intel at its own game. How well Intel will play the underdog in 2011 remains to be seen, but we reckon long-time rival AMD will be watching everything unfold with a wry smile on its corporate face.

2011: The Year Ahead Our predictions for 2011
ARM looks set to have a good 2011.

The market is flooded with even more useless tablets

The push for tablets – the majority of which feature ARM-based processors – will accelerate, with RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook tempting the business sector with its recognisable brand name, powerful new OS and impressive specifications.

Sadly, we think that poor software compatibility, and a lack of interest from developers, will prevent it from becoming a major success. A redesigned iPad 2 will be doing its best to convince the Apple crowd that they should invest in a new tablet, with rumours of a dual-port design that enables the device to be docked in both portrait and landscape mode, providing a significant improvement over the original. However, its high price and increasingly restrictive developer guidelines will probably mean that it won’t be a device for everyone.

Meanwhile, Google Android 3.0, codenamed Honeycomb, will burst onto the scene in the first half of the year, powering the majority of non-Apple tablets. Sadly, we reckon they will all fail to deliver: the tablets that don’t disappoint on the hardware side will be ridiculously expensive, while the sensibly-priced models will be a horror to use.

2011: The Year Ahead Our predictions for 2011
We've yet to see a tablet that really impresses us, but there will be plenty of choice next year.

Nvidia takes back the graphics market from ATI

Our next prediction is one that should have fanboys wailing and gnashing their teeth: Nvidia, with its freshly launched GeForce 500-series, will finally claw back dominance of the discrete graphics market. We’ve already seen the Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB in action, and it solves all the issues of the original Fermi boards.

Meanwhile, Nvidia’s clever vapour chamber cooler will impress with its performance and low noise levels, and it will be a brave or foolhardy board partner that replaces the stock cooler with anything else. While ATI will attempt to counter Nvidia’s latest and greatest with its Radeon HD 6900-series, our money will definitely be on Nvidia for 2011, which will be a pleasant change for its shareholders after its poor performance through most of 2010.
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