Intel’s alliance with Motorola and Lenovo has confirmed the chip maker’s imminent entry into the smartphone and tablet space. The move also, however, calls into question the future of Wintel, or Intel’s long-standing partnership with Microsoft for desktop dominance.
Through its support of Motorola Mobility – a company in the process of being acquired by Google – Intel is strong support for Android. And, as a company that has aligned itself almost exclusively with Microsoft’s Windows OS, Intel’s announcement may have come as a bit of a surprise.
Solution providers, however, aren’t convinced that Intel’s new alliances pose a threat to the Wintel empire. Swank, for instance, views Intel’s new partnerships as part of a broader strategy to extend its reach in the mobile market. The chip maker isn’t turning its back on Microsoft, he said. It’s simply exploring new opportunities.
With Windows 8, Swank continued, Microsoft has opened its doors to new partnerships, too. The software giant designed Windows 8 to run not only on Intel’s x86 chips, but ARM archictures as well. This move, Swank said, perhaps nudged Intel to initiate a new alliance of its own.
Lyle Epstein, president of Kortek Solutions, a Las Vegas-based solution provider, shared Swank’s theory. "I don’t think the Wintel era is coming to an end," Epstein told CRN. "I think it is just changing the dynamics of the game. With Microsoft supporting ARM in Windows 8 and Intel’s new Atom chips which already work with Microsoft, Intel is just opening up their products to new markets and segments that have been owned by Qualcomm and others for years."
Another reason to trust in the resiliency of the Wintel era is the staying power of the more traditional PC, Stinner said. It’s too early to tell whether the Wintel reign will waver in the tablet and smartphone space, but Intel and Microsoft will always be powerhouses in the desktop and notebook markets. And this second group, though overshadowed at times by today’s mobility hype, isn’t going away any time soon, Stinner said.
"The fact that are so many smartphones displacing 'dumb' phones and so many tablets existing when they didn’t exist in the past… does this mean the PC is going to go away? And does that mean the Wintel empire would come to an end? I don’t think so," Stinner said. "I think we all put a PC on our desk, put a phone in our pocket, put a laptop in our bag, and then we add a tablet… I think all these form factors are going to continue to exist."
Swank pointed out that the traditional PC form factor is being revived through Intel’s introduction of the Ultrabook. This, he said, is sure to solidify the Wintel relationship. "I think we will continue to see them work together," Swank told CRN. "Ultrabooks will have a huge play for both companies, and I think Windows 8 will work really well there."
At the end of the day, he continued, more form factors and more mobile architectures mean more choices for the market –and that’s always a good thing. "Ultimately, the people who win will be the consumers because more choices and more competition means better pricing and better products," Swank said. "We are all probably a winner. But it’s just really fun to watch."