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"We look for Intel, and other manufacturers, to provide us with the tools and building blocks so that we can innovate and break open new markets for this technology. My only concern would be if Intel were to offer near-complete solutions," Kretzer said. "Would that be the case, we would shy away from it like the plague."
Another system builder is concerned that by offering increasingly complete solutions, Intel could be creating channel conflict and reducing, rather than expanding, opportunities for custom builders.
"As these technologies progress and become highly integrated the custom system builder will more than likely have come to that fork in the road -- where do they go now -- for what’s left to build? All the integration will have to be done at the factory level," said Tim Ulmen, principal at Midwest IT solutions group, a Wichita, Kan.-based system builder.
There will still perhaps be opportunities left for VARs from a software configuration standpoint to generate revenue, but for the custom system builders revenue opportunities from this particular market will be minuscule, Ulmen said. "I truly believe this new netbook and tablet group initiative is where Intel focuses less on the custom system builder channel and hands that portion of business opportunities to retailers and e-tailers who will become the main 'channel partners' in the distribution model of Intel’s mobile product line," he said.
Steve Brown, vice president of sales and business development at Blue Hawk Networks, a Campbell, Calif.-based system builder, isn't impressed with Intel's new business unit and says the company is playing catch-up in this market.
"I don't really think it's ground-breaking, frankly," he said. "It makes sense that Intel has to form the group to focus on a burgeoning market like they did with Xeon and Pentium, but I'm surprised it's taken so long since the Atom has been an out for some years already.
"Intel has to do this or they're going to lose a ton of market share. They have to go beyond what they're doing today and make different chips for different devices," Brown said. "The problem is that when you get to the mobile world there is more competition, so they need to rev it up and keep the heat down on those little chips."
In tackling the market for tablets, Brown suggested Intel focus on a specific, if somewhat undefined, segment for its processors. "Where they'll do well is in the market for something like the Dell Streak, between netbooks and smartphones, that 7-inch market that's sort of undefined--the in-betweens," Brown said.