The Foundation Cracks: Intel, Microsoft At Odds Over Windows 8

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News Posted: Fri, May 20 2011 8:08 PM
The nascent tablet market segment has already strained the Wintel alliance; both Microsoft and Intel have made marketing/strategic decisions that the other isn't fond of. Intel's recent financial analyst day has only made things worse; Microsoft is quite unhappy with the CPU manufacturer's remarks regarding Windows 8. Microsoft's declaration that Windows 8 would run on ARM processors was one of the most talked about announcements of last January's CES, but Intel's remarks this week cast doubt on the usefulness of the ARM-flavored version of that operating system.

Renée James, Intel's general manager of the software & services group, claimed in his presentation that Microsoft's Windows for ARM would never offer any degree of legacy compatibility with x86 software. "On ARM, there'll be the new experience, which is very specifically around the mobile experience, specifically around tablet and some limited clamshell, with no legacy OS, James told The Register. "Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now. Not ever."

Microsoft's response to James' statements snarled its way across the wire in a matter of hours.
Intel's statements during yesterday's Intel Investor Meeting about Microsoft's plans for the next version of Windows were factually inaccurate and unfortunately misleading. From the first demonstrations of Windows on SoC, we have been clear about our goals and have emphasized that we are at the technology demonstration stage. As such, we have no further details or information at this time.
Intel is plenty interested in Windows 8, but is simultaneously trying to sell the market on the idea that Atom, not ARM, is the ideal ultra-mobile processor of the future. Microsoft is perfectly willing to support x86 ultra-mobile hardware, but wants to develop an operating system it can deploy on as many architectures as possible. Given that MS has already promised a version of Office that's ARM-compatible, Intel's declaration that there will be no legacy support is far from accurate.


It's only going to get worse

Legacy app support isn't the only point James raised; Ars Technica reports that the VP also implied only x86 versions of Windows would be able to switch from a tablet-friendly GUI to a standard desktop GUI—ARM systems would allegedly be stuck with only the new touch interface. The overall point of James' argument is that Intel doesn't just provide a CPU—it offers development tools, decades of experience, thorough documentation, and full legacy compatibility with virtually any app a person might install.

Microsoft's Terrible Touch Undoes Intel's Argument.

There's a gaping flaw in Intel's logic. "Full x86 legacy application support" makes for a great bullet point, but it's of dubious benefit in the real world. The overwhelming majority of x86 software created in the past 30 years was designed for a keyboard+mouse. The problems this creates are instantly apparent to anyone who tries to use a Windows 7 touch-enabled system. Unless the display uses a much lower resolution than normal, it can be insanely difficult to select options from the menu bar, navigate file trees, or seamlessly copy-paste content from one article to another.


Intel's expertise is unquestioned, but how much will it matter in the end?

There are very, very few games that would translate well; those that did would still require updates to enable touchscreen support. Intel does have something of an argument, insomuch as software vendors whose products translated well to touchscreens would have an easier time of porting their applications. We suspect, however, that future applications will fail or succeed based on their GUI design as much as their performance.

This may be part of why Intel is trying so hard to redefine the PC and reassert its importance in the face of new products. Intel's development ecosystem and decades of expertise are unmatched, but in this instance, not particularly useful. Despite the company's bold words, we suspect ARM presents a stiffer challenge than Santa Clara is currently willing to admit.
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3vi1 replied on Sat, May 21 2011 10:53 AM

>> "Our competitors will not be running legacy applications. Not now. Not ever."

  • Emulation.
  • Java.
  • .Net. (it's getting close to 10 years old, and makes apps not dependent on the architecture since everything's only compiled to CIL)

How wrong can one guy be? Does he think that, in addition to the above, Microsoft can't convince a few of their partners (i.e. companies MS has not gotten around to killing yet) to recompile their major apps for ARM?

Legacy apps are overrated anyway.  People switch to Linux or OS X all the time and never miss them.

A couple of years back, I predicted Windows for ARM would be coming, and that it would be bad news for Intel - but things are occurring way ahead of schedule and out of order from my prediction.  I thought it would eventually occur due to the CLR, but it's happening early simply because Intel's not competing on power/perf in the low-end market.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

++++++++++++[>++++>+++++++++>+++>+<<<<-]>+++.>++++++++++.-------------.+++.>---.>--.

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CDeeter replied on Sat, May 21 2011 6:11 PM

Yes I'd say Intel is feeling the heat.

From AMD's successful launch of Brazos into the low end x86 market, along with the pending release of Llano and Bulldozer for mainstream/upper end computing, to Microsoft developing Windows for Arm in the mobile sector, plus VIA's Nano and Nvidia's Tegra, Intel is being challenged on almost all fronts.

And if Bulldozer proves to be a beast, then all bets are off in the server market too.

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rapid1 replied on Sat, May 21 2011 11:46 PM

You guys are both dead on as well as in line with a comment I made the other day. The one thing not mentioned is (and I figured 3vi1 out of everyone would have picked this one up) Windows is becoming as unnecessary in many ways as Intel. Yes on a desktop platform Intel makes some strong competition. The thing is the world is going mobile. Not only this but the hardware within that spectrum is moving at a outrageous speed. It has not been that long since single core was the desktop, and then dual core, and then quad, now 6-8 cores. Those splits from single to dual etc etc took a couple of years each. On the mobile platform there are now new devices such as the Thunderbolt on Verizon that supposed to be cutting edge, but are not. At the same time there are dual core phones in a shorter supply now of course, that however won't be the case in a month, and there are 2 dual cores out now, and 4-6 by the 12th of June. Then on top of that quad core smart phones and tablets will also be out in the 3rd and 4th quarter of this year.

So in 1 years time we will have roughly seen at least 6-10 years of the pc's evolution occur. The phones coming this summer, next fall, and winter will also be running DDR2 by school season and probably DDR3 by winter. Just imagine what will happen at the next CES, and most mid high to premium high also have at least one (yes on board but still singular GPU (not using CPU by at least 50%). By winter we will see DDR3 if not 4 or 5 as it is much more energy and heat efficient which is the goal especially in a mobile platform. That memory standard will not be reached because of the performance level but because of that efficiency quota.

On top of all of that on the hardware end, how is M$ going to compete if Office and windows see 1/4 to a 1/3rd of their market on a platform where there not needed nor appreciated. The numbers are astounding really. 4 years ago a house would still have a maximum of 2 pc's widely even only 1 in a lot of cases unless a parent had one supplied by there work. Now mom and dad and any kid 12-14 and up also have a smart phone at least in any mid to major sized city which is also where the largest amount of the population exists. So we will say a general of 3 but often 4 or more as some people have 2, 1 for personal use and 1 supplied by work. So say 1 adult has 2 1 has 1 and 2 teens have them to o that's 5 in one house, and not mentioning any slate/tablets or anything else.

The point is M$ is not needed on a smart phone but you can do office stuff through Google, Browse the web, get services across the web, play games, do office functions from several providers, take pictures and process them, play games, watch HD video in 2-5 places in many homes with no help at all from M$ period, not to mention Intel is not there either. Then realize this market is 3 years or less old in total! In 3 more years a home may have 1 desktop as a family server, and an HTPC and or file server (which will all except the desktop maybe running without M$). Everything else will be done on a mobile platform. The HTPC and file server obviously will run better, more seamlessly as well as more efficiently (energy wise/file manipulation from a server standpoint) with Linux, and more securely.

I say either M$ and Intel get off their asses and get a real strong move on within the next 2 quarters, not next year or two years down the road as by then ot at least in 5 years they could both be gone, especially M$. Microsoft may have a strong market for now, but the have way less points in it than Intel do. Intel is in everything from chip sets, to communication standards, to electronics standards, to wire standards, port standards, transmission and signal standards and on and on. Not to mention with M$ failed phone standard up to now, they are going to have to in the future work with others, and not others work with them.

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LLeCompte replied on Sun, May 22 2011 11:21 AM

well competition is never a bad thing, and it seems the kings feeling the forces closing in on their castle. Either they have to wake up and do something about it or lose out.

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rapid1 replied on Sun, May 22 2011 11:58 AM

To tell you the truth I am questioning where the visionary part of Microsoft disappears to. Yeah the Kinect is visionary or was when it came out, many of the cool features on WIN7 came from external sources I would say. Yes the development may have been internal, but things used to come from M$ completely so even if they stole it from somewhere else they new good ideas when they saw them. No the just seem to plod along ignoring many things and while there successes are of course there they seem to be peaking around the corner more than making new things in many cases.

I personally tried to get there development division to co-patent a slate/tab device before the i-Phone ever came out. Of course initially they said they would consider the idea etc.. But that went one step and stopped. Mind you this was years ago, and it was or would have been a windows focused device, but I was basically totally shut down. This may not have been anything, but that would still be more than what they have in the space now.

Either way I am not saying my idea would have made or even helped M$, I am just saying they seem to have there corporate mind developmentally in a closed glass room. It only ventures out randomly. You cannot innovate like that. You may be able to upgrade your current stable of software which in this case is huge, and there recent acquisitions (IE: Skype etc) may be good ones, but they need to get out of the box they themselves introduced I think. Intel may be boxed in in many aspects to, but at least they have more out there considerably than M$ in many areas. Where M$ sits in there fort on the hill mainly!

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rapid1 replied on Mon, May 23 2011 5:53 PM

Just to add to my previous statement "SEATTLE — International Business Machines edged past old rival Microsoft Corp in market value for the first time since April 1996"

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