Behind Intel's trash-talking about Windows on ARM

Intel has a strategy to keep users from defecting to ARM-based post-PC devices, but it may not work

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The first Ultrabook laptops were mere pretenders, as Intel allowed already-in-development Air-like clones to use the Ultrabook label last fall for the holiday sales. Buyers weren't fooled. The real Ultrabooks began shipping this spring using Intel's optimized circuitry to match the power savings, quick boot times, and other advantages Apple had brought to the Air. The "real" Ultrabooks are nice laptops, but they don't advance the laptop category -- just keep up with what Apple had already done.

A "stick with the PC" strategy that requires Windows RT to fail
What the Ultrabooks might do for Intel is reduce the number of people tempted by both Windows RT tablets and Apple's ARM-oriented universe. The pitch for both an Ultrabook and the so-called convertibles that will ship this fall, which are Ultrabooks with detachable screens, turning them into tablets, is that you have a full PC when you need it and a post-PC experience when you want. Why carry an iPad and a MacBook Air -- or "regular" Windows laptop -- when you can carry just a Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, or Dell convertible instead?

Intel can pull off that promise on the hardware engineering side, and the key PC makers can deliver at least some models that will keep Windows users in the PC camp despite the siren call of a MacBook Air, for which new models will debut this fall if history is any guide. But Intel needs Windows RT to fail for that strategy to work.

Remember, Windows RT doesn't run the Windows we all know today -- that is, the Windows 7 experience and all of its software. Users may discover they don't need the legacy after all. Most of us use just Office, a Web browser, and an email client, which Windows RT tablets will offer, as do iPads as long as you don't need Microsoft's version of Office. If so, they'll move quickly in the consumer market to Windows RT tablets or other post-PC forms -- and/or iPads. Both categories use ARM chips. Businesses will eventually follow.

That's why Intel's CEO is so scared about ARM that he's publicly critiquing it. Intel doesn't have Apple's advantage of designing its entire ecosystem, which lets it control its destiny and pace of change. Intel has to work with Microsoft, HP, Dell, and dozens of other tech companies, and that takes time -- time Intel is running low on.

This article, "Behind Intel's trash-talking about Windows on ARM," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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