学习电脑CPU的时候,多数会讲CISC(复杂指令集)与RISC(精简指令集)架构的CPU异同点。CISC与RISC孰优孰劣也是以前讨论的话题。不过两个指令集架构的CPU却很少直接面对面冲突过。CISC典型的代表Intel的x86芯片几乎统治了个人PC,而RISC架构的CPU大行其道与小型机和移动领域,前者以IBM的PowerPC和Sun的SPARC为代表,后者以ARM CPU为代表。

     虽然Intel的芯片占据着个人PC庞大的市场,优异的运算能力值得称道,但是其功耗问题一直值得诟病。指甲盖大小的CPU需要配置香烟壳大小的散热片才能得以正常工作。不过随着Intel对于移动计算的重视,此后就有了笔记本专用的CPU迅驰(Centrino)系列和酷睿(CORE)Merom系列。低功耗这条路Intel走得更远,随着凌动(Atom)的推出,功耗进一步下降。威盛凌珑(Nano)试图在上网本领域复制联发科在手机领域的山寨神话被Intel无情地打破。不过上网本领域并未取得Intel期待的业绩,反而对自身的传统笔记本领域的CPU市场产生冲击。不过对于Intel来说凌动(Atom)的意义并不仅仅在上网本本身,或许带着Intel试图在手机CPU领域(或者确切的说移动计算领域)复制在PC领域的成就,在上网本的扩张只是迈出的第一步;因为将ARM架构的Xscale卖给Marvell以后,Intel已经打算在x86体系架构一条路走到底。

     ARM这三个字母虽然对于很多人来说是陌生的。但是其应用领域涉及:无线、网络、消费娱乐、影像、汽车电子、安全应用及存储装置。你手上的手机几乎都拥有一颗ARM CPU,ARM同样是家用交换机,电子相册以及电子阅读器的大脑。低功耗是ARM在这些精巧的设备上得以通行的筹码。随着手机智能化的趋势,对于运算能力的渴望使得ARM CPU的主频得以同步增长。高通的Snapdragon率先跨够了Gmhz的门槛,随后三星也有Gmhz的芯片推出。更要命的是英国的ARM公司只负责芯片技术授权,而30家半导体公司与ARM签订了硬件技术使用许可协议,自行生产ARM芯片,这些半导体公司包括与Nokia紧密合作的德州仪器,在通信领域占据领先水平的高通,在GPU(图形处理器)占据着主导地位的NVIDIA,在电子消费品领域举足轻重的三星,即便是山寨手机之父的联发科生产的MTK芯片也是ARM架构。各家的特长加上ARM的通用性使得ARM在嵌入式领域占据着绝对的主导地位。低功耗的CPU在解决运算速度的问题后往MID和上网本渗透也是自然而然的事情了。

     本月不出意外苹果将在本月发布平板电脑iSlate,苹果推出平板电脑的事情已经不是秘密的秘密了。不过iSlate的CPU会采用跟iPhone一样的ARM架构还是选用Intel架构一直是业界感兴趣的话题。虽然iSlate并不会对CPU的市场产生太大的直接影响,但苹果的示范效应以及背后的众多模仿者将会带给CPU领域不小的波澜。尽管苹果的iSlate还未发布,在今年CES 2010上NVIDIA采用ARM架构的Tegra 2大放异彩。这家在GPU领域数一数二的公司开发的Tegra系列的CPU能够满足快速网页浏览、1080p高清视频播放、Adobe Flash Player 10.1硬件加速、令人身临其境的3D用户界面以及此前无法想象的超长的电池续航能力。于是采用Tegra 2的平板电脑在CES 2010已经多得让人厌烦。这对于Intel来说绝对不是好消息。

     Intel与ARM的战役已经在Intel出售Xscale的时候就已经打响,今年更会是两大阵营短兵相接的肉搏战。猛虎对群狼,谁都输不起这场战役。


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