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Intel network scheme means war with Microsoft

Intel's plans for thin server appliances don't leave any room for Gates & Co

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Is Intel now at war with Microsoft? A read of the small print of the company's "Thin Server Appliance Strategy," announced earlier this week, makes it abundantly clear that the two companies are on a collision course. The Intel announcement was reported here, but has attracted little attention, no doubt because it was 1: About networking; 2: Largely unintelligible, and 3: a bit weird. But Intel's stated views on what a thin server appliance should be make it obvious that it should not be a Wintel box. Intel envisages thin servers as being simple, single task appliances that will typically be used by small businesses to provide specific kinds and levels of networking functionality. In one sense they're not going to be 'servers' at all - what Intel now refers to as the first such appliance, the Internet Station, was launched in January, really falls into the router category. But as Intel is now using the 'S' word about this and future appliances, we can presume that the company is thinking in terms of adding processing horsepower to various items of networking connectivity, and thus extending Intel's processor business outward. The strategy might use x86, but it sounds a lot like one that will find something useful for Intel's StrongARM developments. On several counts, Intel's "key product criteria" for thin server appliances will go down like a lead intern in Redmond. They have to be low cost (which actually may signal a change in Intel's strategy), and they "should be priced affordably based on functionality and should not require additional per seat licence fees" (our itals). This is important for two reasons - first of all, the mere fact that per seat licence fees should come up makes it absolutely clear that Intel is envisaging something with enough functionality to be considered as a server, and second because it's diametrically opposed to Microsoft's licensing policies. Intel also says the devices should be single function, and not be "cluttered with additional capabilities that will complicate the device or add unnecessary costs." This certainly doesn't sound like an operating system that comes out of Redmond. But most ominously, "Since these devices are designed to perform a single function, the hardware and operating system platforms should be designed for that specific function." This clearly fits a lot more closely with the Sun/Oracle NC view of the world than with anything Microsoft builds, or wants to build. If Intel really goes ahead with these devices, then it's clearly war. ®

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