Interesting evolution. It's been a while since we had a third player competing with AMD and Intel for high-end desktop systems. We're still a few years away from actual products, but still ... extra competitors might be beneficial for us!
Judging by their latest press release, ARM Ltd really is serious about competing with Intel and AMD in the high-end desktop and server computing market, where competition is fierce. For years, ARM had said that there was no need to extend their architecture to 64-bit yet. However, it appears that the time has now come for this to happen, as ARM has announced its new ARMv8 architecture, the first to include a 64-bit instruction set, at ARM TechCon 2011 in Santa Clara, California. ARM CTO Mike Muller said:
"ARMv8 will enable the development of ARM architecture compatible devices that can be designed to maximize the benefits across both 32-bit and 64-bit application areas. This will bring the advantages of energy-efficient 64-bit computing to new applications such as high-end servers and computing, as well as offering backwards compatibility and migration for existing software through a consistent architecture."
Muller also explained that the ARMv8 architecture will have 32- and 64-bit modes, much like today's x86/x64 CPU's which should ease transition into the 64-bit world for existing applications. The 32-bit mode is called AArch32 and the 64-bit mode AArch64. Key features of the existing ARMv7 instruction set will also be kept, as would be expected. Some of these features are: TrustZone, virtualization and NEON advanced SIMD, which will be either maintained or extended, as appropriate.