Intel and the Open Ecosystem

I have a confession to make that might not sit well in the AppUp World:

I’m a longtime AMD system builder.

I have to qualify that though.  Eons ago, when I first started assembling my own personal computers, CPU competition was fairly open.  Intel could not keep up with the demand at the time, so they licensed x86 production to various foundries– many that aren’t even around now.  I was a hardware opportunist, scavenging and cannibalizing and repurposing any part I could.  So it didn’t matter if a CPU was made by Intel or AMD or Cyrix or whoever… as long as I could use it, I did.

But over time competitors died or withdrew from that business, and for a while it was pretty much an Intel and AMD world for desktops.  

For the builder on a budget, AMD was the default choice price/performance-wise.  You could typically get 90% of Intel’s power for 80% of the price.  Yes, there were occasional software compatibility issues, but AMD was usually quick to solve them.  So over the years I have happily constructed system-after-AMD-driven-system, and am to this day still enjoying a 4-core 64-bit Opteron beast that takes everything I throw at it.

I also find myself embedded in Intel’s MeeGo venture after Nokia has reduced its involvement.  Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that “Chipzilla’s” CPU and operating system businesses are a universe apart.  Where Intel gets into occasional trouble for alleged monopolist practices on the hardware side, its software efforts are solidly open source.  In fact, its Open Source Technology Center (OTC) is a major contributor to the Linux kernel.

From my perspective, Intel looks bipolar.

But I’m perfectly content focusing on Chipzilla’s soft side.  After all, I’m still dreaming of an open mobile device ecosystem, and Intel may well be the best-suited corporate behemoth to pull such a thing off.  Whereas handset manufacturers like Nokia may struggle to monetize MeeGo, Intel faces no such dilemma.  As a core component supplier, it’s in Intel’s best interests to get into as many channels, and thus end products, as possible.  Open markets serve those interests well.  Cell phone service providers have expressed a preference for open mobile ecosystems, so they can plug in their own services rather then be shut out by device manufacturers, like Apple, who prefer to control the entire user experience.  And even if MeeGo fails to gain traction in the glorious world of mobile handsets, it supports so many other platforms that it should still find success.

Intel’s main challenge has been in getting the power demands of mobile CPUs into reasonable ranges, and new developments like their 3D transistor technology should go far in solving that.

I’m hoping that, if nothing else, Intel’s sheer size and presence will enable and empower a rich, open MeeGo ecosystem.  One where any service provider can find a foothold, and customers can decide who survives based on quality and depth of service rather than be stuck with the results of paranoid, protectionist behaviors.  As things look now, with Google asserting more control over Android, MeeGo may well be the sole solution in that regard.  And as more manufacturers plug into Intel’s vision, the possibilities will just increase.


2 responses to “Intel and the Open Ecosystem

  1. From hw persperctive as well, Intel is more open than ARM. When you have x86 tablet / whatever, you know you can get MeeGo on it quite easily. Dealing with ARM stuff requires an expert. This expands your options as far as hardware goes – you don’t need to buy a device that explicitly targets meego, you buy an x86 device and put meego on it. Just like you don’t buy a Linux computer today, you buy any x86 device out there and install your own OS.

    That’s why I hope Intel gets very competive in mobile landscape asap. AMD may come in time, but I don’t really care – I run AMD on my desktop because I’m a cheapskate when it comes to buliding my own PC’s, but for mobile I don’t care that much.

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