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  (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. (INTC) SVP Kirk Skaugen proclaimed during his company's Wednesday morning keynote at the 2013 Intel Developer Forum (IDF).

I. Intel is no Longer Focused on Microsoft

But during its keynote Apple, Inc. (AAPL) (maker of OS X and Macs) was only mentioned in passing, as were "other Linux" providers (i.e. Red Hat Inc. (RHT)).  Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) 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. (GOOG).  To be fair, Wednesday morning was mobile minded as the major announcement was Bay Trail'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.

OS support
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. (INTCpushing customers towards touch-friendly devices or companies like Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ) and Lenovo Group, Ltd. (HKG:0992pushingWindows 8 hybrids/laptop designs, everyone was standing firmly behind Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) 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. (GOOG).

Google
Google is conquering the world and Intel is eager to hitch its wagon with this winner.
 

According to International Data Corp. (IDC) and Gartner Inc. (IT), the two largest market research firms covering the electronics industry, nearly two out of every three tablets and four out of every five smartphones sold are now Android devices.  
Android
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 (AMZN) 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 Preview or the 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.

Tami Reller
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 always 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 on Android
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. (TYO:6502) a Chrome OS virgin, would be using Haswell in its first Chromebook (Chrome OS laptop).  He also announced new Haswell Chromebooks were coming from Acer Inc. (TPE:2353) and Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ).  A new Chromebox (Chrome OS portable desktop machine) was also announced from Chrom first-timer ASUSTek Computer, Inc. (TPE:2357), which it billed had "zero maintenance management" and suggested might be perfect for a call center.

Haswell Chromebooks
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.

Android enhancements
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
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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RE: Join the club.
By inighthawki on 9/12/2013 2:36:45 PM , Rating: 2
No a computer is much more than an "electronic locker." Sure you can keep your stuff on it in electronic format, but by and wide the most valuable function of a computer is the services it provides. Yes things like streaming can be done from a central web host or server, but the primary benefit is from the local experience. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that in todays world, a computer is even less of a "locker" than what it used to be. Files are now being stored on the cloud, as the device and OS move to a service model by providing the user with apps.


RE: Join the club.
By Da W on 9/12/2013 3:13:23 PM , Rating: 4
Services...
Ordinary people browse the web. Phone/tablets can do that.
ordinary people facebook/tweet/other social media that i did not bother to discover. Phone/tablets can do that.
Ordinary people type a 1-2 page letter for Christmas and at most list their bills on excel. Phone/tablets can do that.
Ordinary people now play more and more dumb games. Phone/tablets can do that.

All is left for PC is serious gaming (try running total war on anything else) or work. Software stopped asking for more powerful hardware around 2005. People got their old PC in the basement and all of sudden, a new phone does the job, why upgrade the pc? Microsoft lost the consumer big time, and while i had hope that Windows 8 was the answer last year (and i DO like it), i was wrong.


RE: Join the club.
By inighthawki on 9/12/2013 4:14:52 PM , Rating: 2
There's a difference between can (being able) to do something, and doing it well. Things like checking twitter and facebook updates might work fine on a tablet, but once you get to writing papers and doing anything remotely productive, I will laugh at the person to try and do it on a phone or tablet.


RE: Join the club.
By nikon133 on 9/12/2013 6:16:53 PM , Rating: 3
Phones/tablets can browse web. However, both my Asus Transformer (Android 4) and iPad (iOS 6) still stumble across web pages they don't render correctly. And phones, I browse on them only when I don't have other option - regardless on phone screen resolution, I'm finding browsing on sub-5" screen claustrophobic at best.

If I have to type anything more than a sentence or two, I grab laptop or do it on my desktop. Typing on tablet is much poorer and more torturous experience for me.

Excel, or spreadsheets in general - typing on phone, switching between letters and numeric keyboard layouts, peeking at small screen with half of it already taken by keyboard? Yes you can, but you are having much worst experience than doing it on any laptop/desktop.

I think that dumb games are being played by people who didn't really play games before. I cannot envision scenario where more dedicated gamers will drop their Halo, Gears, Battlefield, Uncharted, Skyrim titles for Angry Birds. Actually, I will not be surprised to see a trend where casual games are encouraging more people to upgrade to more serious gaming, something they might not do without having that middle step.

Main problem for computers perceived decline is maturity of platform. Outside of hard-core gamers and demanding consumers/prosumers (HD video editing, RAW photos editing), not many home users really need anything above Core 2 Duo. Or office users, matter of fact. They will run fine Vista, 7 or 8, Office, any web browser, email client, image browser, accounting software... you name it... just fine. But this does not necessarily mean people are using computers less - it only means they have less reasons to replace what they already have.

But same trend will follow smartphone and tablet markets. Only faster, because technology is advancing faster nowadays. Some elements of mobile technology are already reaching saturation - how far beyond 1080p can smartphone screens go before it really becomes irrelevant? If it already isn't? True you can keep pushing SoC performance, storage... but at some point, further advancements will become irrelevant to majority, and people will start using their phones not 1 or 2 but 4 or more years, as long as phone is functioning.


RE: Join the club.
By w8gaming on 9/12/2013 7:37:54 PM , Rating: 2
Windows 8 could be the answer if Microsoft has sold RT at $200 and Surface Pro at $500-$600. Yes, that would leave pretty almost no margin for profit, but in this new world order when Google is selling their tablet at $200, it shows that you need to practically give away your OS and not earning much from hardware to be a dominant leader.

Consumers will always vote with the wallet. The old days of getting $100 profit for selling the OS is nice, but time has changed.


RE: Join the club.
By JediJeb on 9/12/2013 3:41:20 PM , Rating: 3
Actually that is what Argon18 said, it was an "electronic locker" that worked very well, but now we are moving away from that to these "cloud" based apps.

I myself have no files stored in "the cloud", nor do I depend on one device to do everything. I hate the one device does all idea, just as I hated TVs with build in DVD or VCRs, because if one device breaks, the others become useless too. I always thought it looked dumb to have a TV with built in VCR, connected to another VCR because the built in one was broken. Now days, if a phone quits working, so does your music player and your organizer and your web browser, and .....

What happens when you need to get a project done and you lose connection to the internet as happens very often where I live? How do you access your data when it is located somewhere out in "the cloud" when that happens? Just how safe is your data out there, if someone can crack your password they have access to your data from anywhere, if they happen to crack my password, they also have to have physical access to my computer to use it.

I am not anti-technology, I actively embrace technology, I am just against giving up control and access to my personal data for a little convenience.


RE: Join the club.
By Piiman on 9/14/2013 11:59:00 AM , Rating: 2
"What happens when you need to get a project done and you lose connection to the internet as happens very often where I live? How do you access your data when it is located somewhere out in "the cloud"

You drive your ass to McDonalds and use their WiFi.


RE: Join the club.
By Piiman on 9/14/2013 12:00:03 PM , Rating: 2
oh and you also keep a copy locally.


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