A Time of Change
The Google alliance also comes at a time of change for Intel and some of its partners. In particular, the lengthy close relationship with Microsoft seems to be splintering to a degree. Down in Los Angeles, during its BUILD conference, Microsoft officials were touting their upcoming Windows 8 operating system. While Windows 8 will run on Intel-based systems, it also will run on ARM devices, such as smartphones and tablets.Intel is also stinging from the defection of Nokia, which earlier this year broke off its partnership to develop MeeGo with Intel in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone OS. At IDF, Otellini said MeeGo continues to be popular in the embedded systems space, particularly in such areas as the automotive industry. However, he acknowledged that Nokia's defection set back the development of the open-source OS by months. That said, Intel is still working with OEMs to bring MeeGo onto tablets and smartphones, he said. Roger Kay, principal analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates, doesn't hold out a lot of hope for MeeGo's future. "MeeGo is quietly slipping into the background," he said. Otellini said that despite the head start ARM has in smartphones, the market is still fluid. "The smartphone business is not established in terms of the ultimate shakeout of who is going to win and who is going to lose," he said, noting the strong showing Android now has in this space despite Apple's strong start with the iPhone. Meanwhile, "ultrabooks" will enable Intel to keep a strong grip on the PC market. Intel executives envision very light, thin devices that marry features found in tablets-such as long battery life and instant-on capabilities-with the advantages of traditional notebooks, including productivity and compatibility. The first ultrabooks will appear this year from OEMs such as Asus, Lenovo and Toshiba. The next wave will come next year, powered by Intel's upcoming "Ivy Bridge" chips. The third stage will come in 2013, powered by a "Haswell" chip that will offer huge gains in productivity and energy efficiency, Otellini said. He dismissed the threat posed by ARM in the notebook space, even with the eventual arrival of Windows 8. Intel products are becoming increasingly power-efficient, and unlike ARM systems, they support 64-bit computing, as well as legacy workloads. "The value of legacy ... is pretty substantial, and I don't think end users will walk away from that," Otellini said. "I like our chances."
Like Intel, Microsoft has found itself on the outside of the mobile computing space. Its executives view the new functionality with ARM's chips as its way in.