Intel chief executive Paul Otellini said today during an earnings call that he is skeptical that ARM chip vendors will be able to muscle in on Intel’s turf on the Windows PC.

Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said at the Consumer Electronics Show last week that a future version of Windows will run on ARM chips for the first time, allowing vendors such as Nvidia, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments to compete directly with Intel for the first time on PC microprocessor designs.

But Otellini said there are pluses and minuses for Intel. He said that it will be good that Microsoft will have a single operating system that can run across phones, tablets and PCs. That creates more opportunity for Intel’s low-power and high-performance chips to get into a lot more systems. On the other hand, Otellini acknowledged that a possible negative for Intel is that ARM chips could be used in Windows PCs for the first time.

Again, Otellini said he was skeptical because users will expect legacy support, meaning they will want to run older applications on all Windows devices. He also said that users are used to higher levels of performance on Windows computers. Otellini’s response was the first time he has addressed the issue of competition with ARM chip vendors.

Rivals such as Nvidia have taken heart that they will now be able to attack Intel’s big profit center in its near-monopoly on Windows PCs.

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