Thursday, September 22, 2011

The day broke up Wintel

Behind the television ads in relief, or connected, and other tablets, the new major last CES went relatively unnoticed. It is no less significant if: Fortress Wintel eventually implode under its own gravitational mass. It is, however, that since the conference of Microsoft Build the details of the divorce were announced. First element: all manufacturers of PCs, once submitted to the yoke of Microsoft, now offer machines running operating systems other than Windows.

There was a time when Microsoft would never have missed such insolence, but it was specifically convicted of such practices. Insult of all insults, even Intel has its own operating system (first Moblin Meego and after the merger with Maemo, Nokia's system). However additional Intel teams up with Google to offer an Android compatible hardware platform (see Android: Google and Intel optimize their relationship). This independence of manufacturers is indeed the element that has reintroduced a competitive pressure for both Windows and x86: in the mobile world, the ARM processor and OS tactile reign supreme. And it is this pressure that led to the second item that ends the reign unchallenged until Wintel: Microsoft announced that the exclusive x86 ended, and an ARM-compatible version of Windows was on the agenda . It is a real warning shot, while the tandem-x86 Windows is rain or shine in the computer world for a quarter of a century.

Wintel, the portmanteau word that describes so well the close relationship between Microsoft and Intel, which has been very successful in a waltz with each update of an advantage to the other and vice versa. The x86 has shelved the 680x0 processors from Motorola, the PowerPC alliance Apple-IBM-Motorola, MIPS processors, and many others. The IBM alliance goodness, the former regent, outside his own kingdom. No one was in size, no one could resist the steamroller. At best, the Mac has missed just disappear, which might have happened if, ironically, Microsoft had not come to the aid of the symbolic last competitor (Apple investing in an amount no less symbolic but the gesture has been sufficient to restore confidence in the stock market), and Linux should survive by having taken out the equation on commercial (commercial versions of Linux without the means of its competitors in terms of marketing ). On the hardware side, the only salvation for AMD has been to produce processors compatible with the x86 instruction set, including the road map remains under the sole control of Intel. As for other builders and developers, they were all committed to the cause Wintel: any little sheep who is away from the path saw sharply rebuked, if not economic sanctions. Intel and Microsoft held their cup whole computer industry, thereby making their mutual good fortune: in 2010, Microsoft record $ 62.5 billion in revenue and 44 billion Intel. The two companies have worked to preserve, and both have taken too much of their dominant position, which is based more on one another, so that they were both heavily sentenced several times. The industry has paid dearly for this straitjacket that will put a brake on innovation, a crucial component in this area. It will have been that by deporting a new market, away from two friends, the manufacturers have been able to get rid of their hegemony. But watching the course of history, one can not help but notice that the spell is sometimes quite ironic. In 1994, Apple presents its first Power Macintosh, it trumpets the CISC processors Intel is at an end, and that things are going now, Intel will not take the demands of Moore's Law a few years at most.

Twelve years later, the same Apple abandoned the PowerPC processor and passes it once decried as moribund and obsolete. If Intel was able to deploy ingenuity to ensure that the x86 architecture continues to remain valid, all agree, however, to note that it shows its age. We have perhaps forgotten today with the current nomenclature of Intel for its processors, but it takes its name from the first members of this family whose name was composed of a number ending in 86, starting with the 8086 which powered the very first IBM PC, and was born in 1978 .... Certainly, the architecture has undergone many changes since, but at a heavy price compatibility.

This is particularly acute at a time when Intel has to offer ultrasobre processor to deal with the ARM architecture that equips virtually all mobile devices. This does not, however, Intel to continue to develop brilliant discoveries (read Intel starts to 3D). For the interdependence of Microsoft and Intel have also sealed their fate mutual: it was necessary that the processors are compatible with the OS and applications, and vice versa. While Apple was 3 times its revolution (changing twice processors and once the operating system), taking each time a blank page while managing to establish a smooth transition, Microsoft and Intel are remained bound hand and foot. So much so that enough has become a cultural value for both companies, which have remained bogged down when the mobile took off.

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