IDF 2013: Intel Distances Itself From Windows 8, Microsoft
September 12, 2013 11:31 AM
(Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech LLC)
Intel is Google's "new intern", while Wintel is on life support
"We're going to make sure all of your operating systems run best on Intel clients," Intel Corp. (
) SVP Kirk Skaugen proclaimed during his company's Wednesday morning keynote at the
2013 Intel Developer Forum
I. Intel is no Longer Focused on Microsoft
But during its keynote Apple, Inc. (
) (maker of OS X and Macs) was only mentioned in passing, as were "other Linux" providers (i.e. Red Hat Inc. (
)). Microsoft Corp.'s (
) veteran WIndows OS did receive quite a bit of the attention -- but less than half of Intel's OS-specific time focused on Windows (my estimated would be about a third of it did).
Who Intel seemed most enthused about -- and who it spent the most time talking about -- was Google Inc. (
). To be fair, Wednesday morning was mobile minded as the major announcement was
's launch (the latest tablet/laptop Atom platform). But that said, Intel seemed neutral to at times accusative when addressing its long time "spouse" -- Microsoft -- while greedily eyeing the world's most used operating system, Android and its new laptop cousin, Chrome OS.
My, how much has changed in nine months.
Intel itself from the struggling Windows platform.
At the 2013 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) Intel talked a bit about Android, but it was more of a side show. The main event was Windows 8, and Intel seemed deeply commited to Microsoft. I
wrote at the time
Arguably the most important, but relatively underdiscussed single story at the
2013 Consumer Electronics Show
can be expressed in a single word -- "solidarity". Whether it was Intel Corp. (
pushing customers towards touch-friendly devices
or companies like Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ) and Lenovo Group, Ltd. (
, everyone was standing firmly behind Microsoft Corp.'s (
) embattled Windows 8 operating system.
But what once seemed a firm commitment to "Wintel" union, is today on the rocks.
II. Windows 8 Woes
Windows 8 has flopped hard. Its failure arguably
cost Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer his job
. PC sales have seen their
worst percentage drop in history
To Microsoft's credit, it's not merely Windows 8 that's driven this slump. The market as a whole has recoiled form expensive products. Apple shockingly saw its iPad sales fall for the first time on a year-to-year basis since the device's launch.
But one company has emerged looking like a giant-killer -- Google Inc. (
Google is conquering the world and Intel is eager to hitch its wagon with this winner.
According to International Data Corp. (
) and Gartner Inc. (
), the two largest market research firms covering the electronics industry, nearly
two out of every three tablets
four out of every five smartphones
sold are now Android devices.
Android enjoys dominant leads in the tablet and smartphone markets.
What's more Google scored
a shocking sales success with its largely laptop-aimed Chrome OS
-- despite having just a handful of Chrome OS devices on the market. Chrome OS devices have seized
the top two laptop sales spots
on Amazon.com, Inc.'s (
) site displacing popular Windows laptops, and Chrome OS devices reportedly accounted for 1 out of every 5 ~$300 laptop purchased in Q2 2013.
III. New Windows Chief Stumbles as She Tries to Defend Windows 8
At the IDF keynote the
new Windows President, Tami Reller
-- the marketing "brain" behind arguably the
biggest marketing flop
in Windows history (Windows 8) -- was trotted out on stage. But when Mr. Skaugen addressed her, his tone seemed icy -- almost accusative.
"Tell us about what [Microsoft is] doing to ... drive Windows 8 demand," he asked Ms. Reller.
The response from the new Microsoft chief stumbled over here words at times, and delivered an extremely weak response. She said that Windows 8.1's builds had been downloaded by "2.1 million users" worldwide, but failed to clarify whether those numbers were for the public
Release to Manufacturing
. Either way the numbers aren't very impressive; by contrast eight million users are estimated to have downloaded Windows 7's test builds.
New Windows chief Tami Reller struggled in her IDF appearance.
Ms. Reller also asserted that August saw the "most activations of Windows 8" of any month yet, while, declining to give numbers. That's also not terribly impressive -- given that August is the big back-to-school shopping month, and
sees higher sales. What is more noteworthy is that June and July are rumored to have seen very slow Windows 8 sales. By contrast, by that point in its life cycle
Windows 7 was firing on all cylinders
Ms. Reller also said:
[Windows 8.1] gives a chance for Windows to be familiar again. There's a lot of innovation coming to Windows 8.1. We are seeing demand for Windows 8.1 devices in the real world… We see that Windows 8.1 is a real milestone to take that forward.
She might has well have stopped at the first sentence. After all, Windows 8.1 has little to do with "innovation", and much more to do with
unrolling, amending, or otherwise undoing
the "innvoation" of Windows 8.
Returning to your old path
is many things -- "a lot of innovation" is not one of them. Most humorous, it seems Ms. Reller's comment admits that Windows 8 was "unfamiliar" to consumers.
A weak allusion to the upcoming
2014 Windows XP end of life
, might have been the single most convincing thing Ms. Reller said. After all, if Microsoft is forcing consumers off its aging but popular platform, they have to go somewhere, certainly. And some of them might go to Windows 8.1 right?
Intel, for its part, was content to beat around the bush, not-so-subtly alluding to Windows 8's embarassingly bad sales, which drove Intel to
a major decline in profit
IV. Intel is Crazy for Android
If the mood was hostile and terse in the Wintel household, it was puppy love when Microsoft stepped out and started talking about its passion for Google. Intel proudly boasted of its "open source experience", with Intel software and services VP, bragging, "Intel has been one of the leading contributors to linux in the market place."
Intel has put a lot of work into a fast Android implementation.
Intel's outlined how its deep commitment to Android began with a lot of work to make sure the Davlik runtime ran optimally on Intel's chips. Next, Intel talked about how its new NDK allows Android developers to write optimized C or C++ routines for Android apps to boost the performance of critical chunks of code.
And Intel's Google passion didn't stop with Android.
V. Haswell Chromebooks Incoming
Next up Sundar Pichai -- Google's head of Chrome OS and (new) head of Android -- joined Mr. Fisher to talk Chrome OS. On stage he revealed Toshiba Corp. (
) a Chrome OS virgin, would be using
in its first Chromebook (Chrome OS laptop). He also announced new
Chromebooks were coming from Acer Inc. (
) and Hewlett-Packard Comp. (
). A new Chromebox (Chrome OS portable desktop machine) was also announced from Chrom first-timer ASUSTek Computer, Inc. (
), which it billed had "zero maintenance management" and suggested might be perfect for a call center.
Several new Chromebooks were announced.
"[Haswell is available] at hugely disruptive pricepoints in the market [and is a] tipping point" for Intel, Mr. Pichai cheered. He also boasted, "Both android and chrome represent two open platforms, two large platforms built from the ground up."
In one of his most interesting remarks, the Chrome OS chief revealed that 5,000 school districts- - or approximately 1 in 5 school districts across the U.S. -- had adopted Google's Chrome OS. This could prove a crucial foothold for Google in 2014 at it expands its war on Windows.
Intel has also been tuning up its Chrome OS implementation.
A report from Avast claims that Microsoft's decision to finally axe Windows XP support may adversely affect up to 96 percent of U.S. school districts, which still make heavy use of the elderly operating system. As Microsoft burns those districts by refusing to support its product with critical security updates, Microsoft may see these efforts backfire and see school districts flee to Chrome OS -- an affordable platform they already seem relatively fond of.
VI. Google's Android Chief Puts Intel Exec in Their Place With Intern Hat
At IDF 2013 Intel has sent a clear message that Wintel is not dead, but that it is on life support.
While Intel's mobile lineup for the fall will feature a heavy mix of Windoows ultrabooks, budget laptops, 2-in-1s, and tablets, it will also feature several Chromebooks and numerous Android tablets/2-in-1s. No longer is Intel content to back Microsoft unconditionally.
It's willing to hang on a bit longer, but IDF made it clear that Intel has a passion for a new OS maker -- Google -- and that if Microsoft fails to perform, Intel will be more than happy to target its wares at Google's customers.
During his chat with Doug Fisher, Sundar Pichai presented Intel VP Dough Fisher with one of the iconic colorful Google propeller hats.
Sundar Pichai presents Intel SVP Kirk Skaugen with a Google "intern hat". Mr. Skaugen compliantly put it on a few moments later.
"We make new hires wear it on their first day," he quipped. What might be a mere gag at first glance took on a deeper, more embarassing for Intel, given its struggles with its old partner -- Microsoft. It might be embarassing -- perhaps even a bit humiliating -- but even after that comment Mr. Fisher put on Google's hat.
The gesture seemed deeply symbolic. It was if to say Intel -- long relishing the role as top dog in the markets it sold to -- realized it had finally made a devestating mistake after decades of good choices. It picked the wrong horse in the mobile operating system race (Microsoft) and it was now humbly swallowing its pride, embracing the role of lowly Google "new hire". Intel may yet be Google's best hardware partner, but it will have to work hard to get there. Google is willing to give it that chance, but it wasn't above reminding its new partner of its place in this relationship.
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