I’ve spent the last two days in a meeting of Intel’s Communications Board of Advisors along with 20 other representatives from service providers around the world. It has been a very informative session. Since it has been under NDA, I can’t share with you the specific content, however, my key takeaway is public information and yet is eye opening.
It all starts in Intel’s wheelhouse - silicon. This week, Intel brought to market their Moorestown platform. Moorestown offers very competitive processor performance for the netbook and smartphone market. Intel would argue that Moorestown provides significantly higher performance than anything else on the market. However, the real game-changing factor here has less to do with performance and more to do with architecture. What Intel has done is take the same Intel Architecture (x86) that developers are used to developing for, which is always designed for forward and backward compatability, and driven breakthroughs so that it will work in a smartphone implementation with competitive battery life. The engineering achievements are huge, but the potential impact of having the exact same processor architecture in a smartphone as scales up to laptops, desktops, and even into data center environments has the potential to dramatically broaden the application landscape and sweeten the business case for mobile application development.
That Intel is pushing the envelope in the silicon space is no surprise. As Paul Otellini reminded us this morning, from an Intel perspective, at the end of the day everything has to conform to Moore’s Law and the laws of physics, and no one is better than Intel at scaling that Moore’s law progression into technology advances.
What was surprising to me is that Intel’s aggressiveness doesn’t stop at the silicon layer. As Otellini pointed out, Intel is increasingly becoming a software company.
On top of the silicon layer, Intel has made a big bet with MeeGo, a mobile platform intended to compete with the iPhone OS, Android, and other platforms. MeeGo has been contributed to the Linux Foundation, so it is truly open source with full transparency. MeeGo is the result of the combination of separate efforts from Intel and Nokia. By aligning with Nokia, Intel has significantly upped the ante in their software game, quickly translating MeeGo into a viable platform option that can gain operator support. MeeGo is intended to operate across smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops. I believe that much of the question of whether Intel will succeed as a software company rests in their success with MeeGo, so this really is a huge bet for them.
Finally, on top of the operating system sits applications. The third step in Intel’s aggressive agenda is with a new approach to the app store phenomenon. The AppUp Center supports applications for MeeGo and Windows on devices ranging from smartphones to netbooks to tablets to “smart” TV platforms (another part of Intel’s strategy). Intel is also positioning the AppUp Center as an app store behind the app store, so folks like us mobile operators could have a fully customized store without having to worry about managing the developer program behind it.
Bottom line, when looking at these three separate initiatives, Intel has aggressively moved to take the best capabilities that have driven their success in the PC world (backward and forward compatibility, scalability, a vibrant developer ecosystem) and brought it into the mobile world. They have also created and open sourced the replacement for Windows in that mobile world, and have learned from the recent history of what drives adoption and habituation (the app store phenomenon) and tied it all together into a package that is designed to be attractive to the rest of the ecosystem (operators, OEMs, and application developers).
This is a very aggressive agenda. It will be interesting to see how this big bet plays out.