Dominant Duo: Wintel Through The Years4:00 PM EST Fri. Jan. 04, 2013
Microsoft and Intel have enjoyed a long reign as the IT industry's top twosome. The "Wintel" duo dominated the PC market for more than 20 years as laptop and desktop makers overwhelmingly favored Microsoft's Windows software and Intel microprocessors. The rock-solid tech marriage has weakened as PC sales slide with the rise of tablets and smartphones, but here's a look back at some highlights -- and lowlights -- in the Wintel partnership over the years.
Way back in 1999, Microsoft and Intel held a joint Workstation Leadership Forum to promote the Wintel platform for workstations. The event featured Microsoft's Bill Gates and Intel's Craig Barrett, who were then the CEOs of their respective companies. The pair touted the ascendance of systems using Intel chips and Windows NT over RISC-based architectures in the workstation market.
In 2000, Wintel partnered with Compaq to offer an integrated package of products and services in a program called speedStart, which was designed to get small businesses online quickly. Executives described the program as an effort to undermine Sun Microsystems' attempt to claim the "SMB e-business marketplace."
In the days leading up to the launch of the latest iteration of Microsoft's Windows operating system in October 2001, Microsoft teamed with Intel to announce that the software was optimized for Intel's Pentium 4 chip. The optimization would aid in digital media applications, the companies said.
At the Windows Server 2003 launch, Paul Otellini -- then Intel's president and COO -- claimed that Wintel had achieved the world's No. 1 single-system TPC-C industry benchmark in the battle with high-end Unix midrange and mainframe systems. The record-breaking performance was achieved with a Hewlett-Packard Superdome server running on Intel's Itanium 2 processor with Windows Server 2003 and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition.
Seven years ago, Intel and Microsoft teamed up on a channel program for Intel's Premier partners designed to speed sales of whitebooks. The program was the first time the companies paired up on a joint channel program for Intel's Premier partners. At the time, solution providers were trying to tap the growing market for notebooks. Today, Intel's focus is on helping its channel partners reap opportunities with its Ultrabook super-thin notebook form factor. In October, the chip giant said it would offer whitebook versions that partners could tailor with custom configurations.
Intel and Microsoft started off both supporting One Laptop Per Child project, a nonprofit effort established in 2005 by Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of the MIT Media Lab. But after Negroponte told Intel to stop selling the Classmate, Intel's low-cost alternative to the OLPC's XO notebook, Microsoft struck its own deal with himto get Windows XP onto OLPC laptops.
When news broke in 2008 that Intel was sticking with Microsoft's Windows XP for most of its 80,000 employees instead of migrating them to the new Windows Vista, it was just the latest sign that the once-tight Wintel partnership was unraveling. With Vista, the long-standing synergy between the companies was lost as they chaffed over product road maps and system requirements. There were other signs of relationship trouble, including the 2005 announcement by Microsoft rival Apple that it would transition to Intel processors.
Internal Microsoft emails unsealed in a class action lawsuit against Microsoft over its Vista marketing revealed the growing rift with Intel. The lawsuit accused the software giant of deception by labeling PCs as Vista-capable when not all could run all of Vista's advanced features. In the emails, Microsoft executives pointed fingers at Intel over the chip maker's lack of mainstream PC hardware that could handle Vista's graphics requirements.
While Microsoft's Vista caused friction with Intel, the companies were happily back together again in 2009 to tout their collaboration on Windows 7. At a press conference in San Francisco before the October launch of Windows 7, Microsoft and Intel talked about how the new operating system was optimized for Intel's Nehalem and Westmere platforms, with improvements in the areas of energy efficiency and security. The pair didn't want to talk about the past conflict over Vista.
PC sales are on the decline as tablet and smartphone sales skyrocket, but Intel is determined to remedy the problem with new Windows 8-based machines. This year, the company plans to launch a new generation of Ultrabooks featuring Windows 8, Intel's fourth-generation Haswell processors, and new capabilities for touch and voice activation. Intel executives have said convertible Ultrabooks that can be used either as a tablet or traditional notebook PC will revitalize the PC market.