CHIPSHOP Intel has spoken of its support for Linux-based operating systems to quell fears that Microsoft's support of ARM chips will nullify its competitive advantage over rivals.
Renée James, SVP and GM of Intel's software and services group spent some time on Intel's well publicised relationship with Microsoft, saying that there will be several Windows 7 tablets running on Intel hardware tipping up by year's end. James also mentioned that Intel has been working hand-in-hand with Microsoft to develop Windows 8 for system-on-chip (SoC) and standard PCs.
However James spent a lot longer promoting Linux-based alternatives and went further by saying that Intel got into the Linux game early, and he noted that the firm is a "key definer of Linux evolution". James also mentioned that Intel is the second biggest contributor to Linux kernel development. Remember, this is Linux, the software that was likened to cancer by Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer.
So while a few analysts seem to be worried about Intel's health following Microsoft's launch of Windows 8 with ARM architecture support, Intel's own forecasts show that Microsoft's operating system market share will be on the slide.
James displayed projections for the server market that show Linux adoption slowly eating into Microsoft's market share and she made even bolder statements, claiming that most datacenters run Linux, that open source software leads the high performance computing market and that most embedded devices, such as smartphones, run Linux.
James mentioned that Intel has been working with Google to get Android deployed on its x86 chips. She said that Android 2.3 Gingerbread has already been deployed, with the firm currently optimising Android 3.0 Honeycomb, and that Intel based Android devices will be appearing in stores by the end of the year. James also mentioned that Intel has been working with Google to get its Linux-based Chrome OS running on its chips.
Intel touted its Wind River Linux distribution for embedded systems and its Yocto open source project. There was even time to mention Meego, the operating system that Nokia dumped in favour of Microsoft's Windows Phone. James said that tablets running Meego will appear in the second half of 2011 and Intel is working with Orange and Samsung among others to get smartphones out, although she did not mention a release date.
Microsoft's decision to support the ARM architecture is likely to help it more than harm Intel. The popularity of Google's Android has shown that consumers are willing to have Linux running on consumer embedded devices, so the challenge for Intel isn't supporting software, but to make a chip that can run well in smartphones and tablets and deliver respectable battery life.
Judging by James' presentation, Intel might still have a good relationship with Microsoft but the company believes that Linux-based operating systems are a better long term bet. µ