ARM to overtake x86 in ultra mobile devices by 2013, says ABI Research

90% of ultra-mobile devices shipped in 2009 were based on x86 processor architecture

ARM-based systems introduces greater choice and differentiation for system vendors, although an estimated 90% of ultra-mobile devices (UMDs) shipped in 2009 were based on an x86 processor architecture, according to a new report by ABI Research.

The firm forecasts that annual UMD shipments of netbooks, MIDs, smartbooks and UMPCs based on ARM instruction sets will surpass x86-based UMDs by 2013.

Jeff Orr, senior analyst at ABI Research, said: "2010 will be pivotal for building momentum behind non-x86 solutions, and gaining adoption in both distribution channels and by end-user populations worldwide."

According to ABI Research, a growing number of netbooks based on ARM platforms are appearing in the market, helped by the perception that ARM-based systems are heavily oriented towards an 'always connected' mode of operation. In addition, the ARM-based products are coming out in a variety of different form-factors including tablets.

Mr Orr, said: "In fact, that's a distraction. In general, laptops and netbooks with embedded or attached modems contribute a significantly greater amount of traffic to 3G networks than smartphones do.

The proliferation of netbooks and other mobile devices sporting ARM-based processors will only exacerbate this data demand. Mr Orr added: "not a tidal wave, but a rising tide. Operators are working out their strategies for capacity expansion based on today's best expectations of future demand from data-centric devices. The main issues revolve around backhaul, followed by increased 3G and 4G BTS deployments."