The marriage that dominated personal computing becomes more open
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.
Microsoft also told developers how easy it would be to create applications for Windows 8 and to put them in a Windows Store.
Happy developers are essential, because the more apps they create, the more users will want to use Windows 8.
Better still for both users and developers, the system will run on everything from PCs to smartphones.
Steven Sinofsky, the head of Microsoft's Windows division, says Windows has been re-imagined.
Windows 部门主管Steven Sinofsky说道，Windows 已经重新设计了用户界面。
A user sees chunky tiles, as on a Windows smartphone today, rather than small icons;
and he can view two apps at once, which he cannot do on an iPad.
The system is designed for touch-screens, common on mobile devices but not yet on PCs—though you can use a keyboard or mouse if you like.
Writing off either of these giants, even after their slow start, would be daft.
Intel is probably closing the power-consumption gap with ARM.
Microsoft claims to have 450m users of Windows 7, the operating system's latest incarnation on PCs.
Many of these, and people with older versions, may upgrade, especially if they can use the same system on all their devices, at home or at work.
Even so, the clock is ticking, especially for tablets, where the competition will get fiercer.
Apple's iPad2 is selling like, well, an iPad.
苹果的iPad2 正如其一代iPad 一样热销。
By the time Windows 8 tablets appear, a third version may well have won Apple even more customers.
Amazon, buoyed by the success of its Kindle e-reader, is expected to launch an Android tablet within weeks.
Its vast online shop, selling much more than books, may be a draw. Other Android tablets are arriving all the time.
Some contenders, such as Research In Motion, the maker of the BlackBerry smartphone, have already stumbled; HP has all but given up.
The longer they leave it, says Carolina Milanesi of Gartner, the more consumers will have found an alternative, and not just for tablets but for PCs too.