Intel Invests in Linux

Most people think of Intel and Microsoft as inseparable partners in the duopoly of "Wintel". Seems not.

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"Wintel", Microsoft Windows on Intel PCs, seems natural, inevitable and invulnerable to most people - but is it? While Microsoft ridiculed Java NCs (Network Computers), Intel quietly developed NC/Java chips. As Microsoft boasts how powerful 64-bit Windows NT will be on Intel's new Merced chip, Intel works hand in hand with Unix vendors to get them on Merced long before Microsoft.

In June/July 1998, Intel showed up at a Linux convention and unexpectedly declared their support for Linux. Some industry watchers consider this date to be the official date of "the death of Wintel". Now Intel is investing serious money in Red Hat, the best known of commercial Linux distributor. Intel's investment assures the Linux community will have access to new Intel computer and network technologies as soon as, or even before Microsoft does.

Caldera expects to announce its own group of investors in the next few weeks. To date, the primary Caldera backer has been Ray Noorda, former chief of Novell.

Why would Intel risk so profitable an alliance as "Wintel"?

  • No risk. Windows runs on Intel chips, and Microsoft can't afford to change that. Intel can support Unix, Linux, OS/2, JavaOS and others without risking a dime of their Windows business. Couldn't Microsoft start promoting AMD? They already do - big deal.
  • Intel wants to move upscale into enterprise markets. Only a PHB (Pointy Haired Boss) could believe Windows NT 4.0 is an enterprise product, and Windows NT 5.0 appears to be a legendary disaster in the making. Intel needs an enterprise class operating system to sell high end chips - Unix and Linux are ready, willing and able.
  • Enterprise databases. IBM's DB2, Oracle, Informix, Sybase and Ingres have all announced for Linux, and all are far more powerful than Microsoft's SQL Server (which runs only on Windows NT). Intel wants them all running on Intel platforms.
  • Windows is a dead-end product nearing the end of its era. That's far from obvious to most people, but Intel is in a position to see that clearly.
All said and done, Intel can't depend on Microsoft to carry it forward into the future and onto higher ticket computers. The enterprise scalability of Windows NT is no longer in doubt - it just isn't there. Linux is already pushing Windows NT off the server in many places. Clean up the install a bit, spruce up the GUI (Graphical User Interface), and lure some game publishers - Linux (especially with Intel's backing) could start nudging Windows on the desktop too.

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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