What it is: Hewlett Packard Enterprise is creating Astra, the largest ARM-based supercomputer ever made.
For the longest time, Intel’s x86 processors dominated the computer market. Unfortunately, x86 processors were never designed to be energy-efficient. For laptops, x86 processors worked fine because laptops had the space to use large batteries, but for smaller mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, x86 processors required too much energy. That’s why mobile devices like smartphones and tablets use ARM processors instead.
Unlike x86 processors, ARM processors are specifically optimized for power efficiency. So while x86 processors dominated the PC market, ARM processors slowly took over the mobile computing market. PCs always offered more power while mobile devices offered longer battery life. Now that’s changing.
Intel tried to develop energy efficient x86 processors called the Atom processor, but those proved so weak and not as energy efficient as ARM processors that Intel quickly dropped Atom processors. In the meantime, ARM processors have consistently gotten more powerful to the point where they’re starting trivial x86 processors in terms of sheer raw processing power. Once ARM processors exceed x86 processors in power, there’s no reason to use x86 processors any more.
That’s why Hewlett-Packard’s latest venue with the Department of Energy to create an ARM-powered supercomputer is huge news. This new supercomputer will be one of the fastest supercomputer in the world, surpassing even older x86-based supercomputers. This signals the end of x86 processors and the beginning dominance of ARM processors.
That means the future is ARM processors. ARM processors can always get more powerful but x86 processors cannot get more energy-efficient. Eventually ARM processors will surpass x86 processors in power and still retain their energy efficient advantage. Meanwhile, x86 processors will never beat ARM processors in energy efficiency, which means x86 processors are doomed. It may not happen this year or the next, but it’s going to happen.
Microsoft already knows this, which is why they’re shifting Windows to ARM processors. Apple is likely looking towards this future as well. Once Windows runs on ARM processors, then Apple can create ARM-based Macintoshes that can run Windows just like today’s x86-based Macintosh computers can run Windows.
Apple will likely offer both x86 and ARM-based Macintosh models until the x86 processor is gone for good. Then the whole world will shift to ARM-based processors.
The future is ARM processors. With both power and energy efficiency, look for ARM processors to dominate the computer market for decades to come.