Microsoft crushes Intel's mobile hopes

With Microsoft's switch to ARM for tablets, only Google is publicly backing Intel for mobile devices

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As for Google's endorsement of Intel, I see that as a hollow commitment. Google's hardware partners already make ARM-based tablets, and Google's so-called pledge to Intel doesn't force them to change. Why would they? ARM chips are cheaper, and customers want iPad-like battery life of 10 to 11 hours. Google was just looking for a way to stand out, and Intel was searching for someone to give it some love. It's a marriage made in marketing, not engineering.

Maybe Intel will deliver on that promise and keep Apple's business, which will also benefit PC laptop makers, who will gain the same power efficiencies that Apple is forcing Intel to make. The very fact it was so behind the curve that it took a threat from Apple to acknowledge the problem shows the real issue at Intel: Nobody seems to be aiming for the future.

Intel appears to be following the same path as RIM: For years, it was the only chip game in town, save for AMD, whose chips were essentially clones, not a different technology. So whatever Intel built, PC makers dealt with. Intel happily went along the same trajectory, not looking down the road.

To be sure, the move to multicore ended that awful period in the mid-2000s when PCs got so hot they melted their cases and reduced power usage as a result. But there was no fundamental threat to spur Intel to think different. Instead, it dabbled in trying to break into the communications chip business by trying to jump-start the WiMax market (that hasn't worked) and more recently in trying to diversify into software by buying a group of unrelated software vendors. Its big mobile bet in software is in McAfee, which is hoping that Apple, Google, and others will make mobile OSes as susceptible to attacks as PC OSes turned out to be -- a strategy that banks on more of the same from history. It appears its chip strategy is no different.

But so far, with Google as the main exception, the mobile technologies are following a different path than historic ones. They are not flat PCs, and their OSes (except for Android) are better designed to avoid needing malware software like McAfee's -- or energy-burning, complex chips like Intel's.

This article, "Microsoft crushes Intel's mobile hopes," was originally published at Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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