Snubbing Microsoft, Intel To Offer TransMedia's Glide App Suite On Ultra Mobile PCs

At the DigitalLife Conference in New York City on Thursday, Intel plans to announce a partnership with New York-based TransMedia Corporation to make the Glide desktop environment available to manufacturing partners such as Samsung and Toshiba on ultra mobile PCs, laptops, and other devices.

The deal represents a significant endorsement for the forthcoming upgrade of TransMedia's technology--what the company is calling Glide OS 2.0--and suggests a growing rift between Microsoft and Intel.

"This is legitimately now an operating system and productivity suite of applications that lets you literally leave the Microsoft environment and live in Glide," says CEO Donald Leka. "This is exciting for us because it's an enormous jump from the first version of Glide."

With the launch of Glide in late 2005, TransMedia has been working to woo users away from desktop computing--where files and applications live on a local PC--and over to cloud computing--where files and applications lead double lives, with local copies that are mirrored online and are available through any Internet-connected device.

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Glide 2.0 is a productivity, content creation, and media sharing platform that runs atop Windows, Mac OS, and assorted mobile devices running Windows Mobile 5. A version for Linux is planned for next year. It's not really an operating system, at least not yet.

But in many ways, Glide makes the operating system redundant by providing an appealing interface, newly redesigned, for file storage, sharing, and manipulation that shields the user from the complexities of the actual operating system.

To date, Glide has attracted some 250,000 subscribers worldwide, including corporate customers like New York University, The American University, Univision Communications, and The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

The 2.0 version of Glide, currently slated for release at the end of the month, features Web browser-based tools for online photo editing, online presentations, and online word processing, as well as a spreadsheet program that can be used locally or online. These new additions to Glide's application suite, which includes calendar, contact, bookmark, blogging, e-mail, and file synchronization applications, to name a few, come at a time when Intel is strengthening ties to Microsoft's competitors, including Apple Computer.

"There is a big rift between Intel and Microsoft," says technology analyst Rob Enderle, pointing to the prominent role Apple played at the recent Intel Developer Forum and to the minor role played by Microsoft, as evidence of the fractured Wintel partnership. "During [Intel CEO] Paul Otellini's keynote, [Apple] basically got up there and pitched their entire product line. I have never seen that done at an Intel event."

Whatever happens, don't expect an end of the Wintel mutual admiration society--Intel and Microsoft still do plenty of business together. But clearly the two companies are looking for growth in different directions.

Beyond getting Windows Vista to market and beefing up its search advertising business, Microsoft has its eye on Apple's iPod goldmine and Sony's gaming customers. Intel doesn't figure prominently in these goals.

Intel, meanwhile, is pushing its WiMax chips in the hope there's a lot more to the mobile computing market than meets the eye. Stung by AMD's recent success, it's also eager to showcase Apple, which recently began using Intel chips to power its computers, as evidence of innovation on the Intel platform. And with Glide, Intel has an operating system of sorts.

Glide's edge may prove to be the fact that it works across different platforms and devices. The Glide backend currently makes effective use of Adobe Flash, a technology that has emerged with the upper hand in the media player war that has been raging for years between Microsoft, Apple, and Real. One of the reasons for the success of YouTube is that its Flash-based video player starts right away, without the additional downloading, configuration, and waiting typical of competing media players. Playing videos on a Glide-equipped mobile phone offers a similarly snappy experience.

Glide should also prove less expensive for Intel's hardware partners than software licenses for Microsoft Office. And when a Linux-compatible version of Glide finally arrives next year, cost-conscious PC and mobile device makers will be able to save the cost of a Windows license as well. In theory, Glide could be used to popularize the Linux desktop for consumers--the Glide environment would serve to insulate users from the complexities of command line computing.

It remains to be seen, however, whether Intel's hardware partners are eager to antagonize the world's largest software maker by marketing a low-cost, Microsoft-free PC.

A Microsoft spokesperson wasn't immediately available for comment.