After sitting through the first keynote at the Intel Developer Forum this week, I was struck by how few mentions of Microsoft Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini made during the kickoff. Windows 8 got a nod during the Ultrabook pitch (which are just MacBook Airs for everyone else), but other than that Microsoft was notably absent, and instead the big software announcement was Google's Android for Intel Architecture smart phones (no ship date given). This means Intel has taken up the ARM challenge and wants into the mobile market. Another notable announcement came from McAfee who showed a hardware/software security combo called DeepSafe that could be a strong differentiator versus other silicon vendors (mainly ARM but bad for AMD as well) and showed Intel got something for its money.
It was no coincidence that Microsoft launched its Build conference the exact same day and time down south in Anaheim, California. Microsoft laid out the very cool Windows 8 and some clever interfaces, but the message was clear that Win8 will run on x86 or ARM. Interestingly the list of sponsors for Build includes new silicon vendors you don't normally associate with Microsoft such as Qualcomm, Broadcom, ST, NXP and of course ARM.
As an embedded systems industry watcher a couple of things struck me. First, Microsoft made no reference (that I could find) to their Windows Embedded product line; they've been eerily silent over the last six months on what they're up to (or not). For Intel, it's clear that they're making a move down the power curve with the new 22-nm Haswell chip, which if history is any guide will have an embedded play. Intel still has work to do on their ecosystem in the embedded market--an ecosystem focused more on boards rather than design. Although their ecosystem approach is fundamentally flawed and is something Intel needs to acknowledge and address, don't underestimate Intel's will to succeed in a market that is very close to home for them. I wrote an earlier blog called "Is Intel a software company" that detailed the recent software moves Intel is making to become a player in the embedded market. If you missed IDF, you can get a snapshot of what they are up to at ESC Boston on September 25 & 26 (for free by the way).
So playing off my slightly provocative headline the WinTel marriage is visibly over, Intel is riding their process juggernaut into mobile (with an assist from Google) and Microsoft is looking for new partners to keep Windows 8 on track running on new hardware.
For those in the tech world it's a whole new party!
David Blaza is senior vice president of UBM Electronics (the company that publishes EE Times and EDN). David has over 20 years of sales, marketing, and publishing experience in the technology sector working for companies as diverse as IBM, Motorola, Mars Electronics, CMP and now United Business Media. He is a graduate of the University of Bradford, England (BS, Materials Science) and the University of Stirling, Scotland (MS in Economics & Technology).
Both entrenched sides flirting with what customers actually are asking for but nothing much new in real substance. That's because you don't negotiate with a tsunARMi. They'll both try to prolong the old party for as long as possible because the new one offers far smaller margins than either has been accustomed to.
"For those in the tech world it's a whole new party!"
No, not really. Until MS actually builds real-world traction with Win8 nothing changes and it is the same old party.
MS have been over-promising capabilities for OS releases going back forever. For example, WinFS has been promised as a compelling feature of the next gen Windows for the last 15 years. Still waiting. Perhaps it will be delivered by a Fedex guy in a flying car.
While vendors certainly want to keep their options open just in case, I don't think anyone really expects MS to deliver anything worthwhile here.