Microsoft and Intel
The marriage that dominated personal computing becomes more open
Sep 17th 2011 | from the print edition
TOGETHER Microsoft, the maker of the Windows operating system, and Intel, the world’s biggest maker of semiconductors, used to rule the world of personal computing. Now that new computers are as likely to sit in people’s hands as on their desks or laps, life for the Wintel couple is less comfy. On September 13th, at their annual conferences for software developers, both claimed to have found new zest—not least from dallying with other partners.
Gartner, a research and consulting firm, expects that this year only 3.8% more laptop and desktop PCs will be shipped than in 2010. That is partly because people have tightened their belts, but also because they are snapping up tablets and smartphones. Both Microsoft and Intel have struggled to adjust. The phone version of Windows has had good reviews but was installed in only 1.6% of smartphones sold in the second quarter; Google’s mobile operating system, Android, scooped 43%. Windows’ share of tablets is minuscule. And in markets where battery life is prized, economical chips designed by ARM, a British company, have made the running. Intel has made virtually no impression in tablets and none at all in smartphones.
Both firms boasted this week of liaisons with others. Intel and Google said that future versions of Android would be tuned for Atom, Intel’s family of low-power processors. Phones with Intel inside should be on sale in the first half of next year. Microsoft showed off the next version of its operating system, code-named Windows 8, using ARM chips. It wants to reassure the army of developers who write programs to run in Windows that these will be just as reliable as Intel’s.