The Necessary End of Wintel

The biggest casualty of Microsoft's radical overhaul looks set to be Intel. The 'Wintel' partnership spans more than 20 years and proved fundamental in bringing both companies to prominence, but Intel's continued failings in the mobile space have seen Microsoft come to realise that it must put evolution above loyalty.

The strains on this relationship can already be seen. Just last week Renee James, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s Software and Services Group, claimed: "There will be four Windows 8 SoCs for ARM [see below running on Snapdragon]. Each one will run for that specific ARM environment, and they will run new applications or cloud-based applications. They are neither forward- nor backward-compatible between their own architecture – different generations of a single vendor – nor are they compatible across different vendors. Each one is a unique stack."


Microsoft retorted: "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." For companies once in contact so regularly they could end phone calls with 'You hang up... no you hang up' this hardly bodes well. Then again relations have been on the wane for some time. Intel partnered with Nokia to make MeeGo, a platform it hoped would rival Windows Phone... and look what Microsoft did. Intel and Microsoft may remain business partners, but they're no longer sharing a bed.

There are further problems. Microsoft has Nokia as its hardware lap dog, but commitment from other manufacturers remains less than stellar. Only HTC has made more than two Windows Phone models (the HTC 7 Trophy, HTC Mozart and HTC HD7) and the likes of Sony Ericsson and Motorola have so far steered clear. Furthermore for all Microsoft's enthusiasm about Mango it still isn't prepared to break down its total Windows Phone handset sales, industry shorthand for 'they're not great'.

Add to this the fact Microsoft will be extremely late in the tablet market (at least with a credible product not based on Windows 7), that Apple has already launched its desktop App Store and Lion will be on sale over a year before Windows 8 and there is still much work to be done.

Then again, for a company which gets endless abuse, right now Microsoft deserves some credit. Both its mobile and desktop platforms are now credible, the Xbox is riding high, Kinect has been a great success and its ability to buy Skype and secure an exclusive deal with Nokia means it is safeguarding much of its future. There are still bumpy times ahead for Microsoft, but its aggressive moves have gone a long way to prove there's life in the old dog yet.

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