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Intel chief claims Microsoft alliance still strong

But StrongARM, appliances and Java tell a different story

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Bouncing onwards from his visit to London earlier this week Intel CEO Craig Barrett has been telling journalists that his company's relationship with Microsoft is still strong today, maybe even stronger than it's been in the past. But Barrett protests too much -- in the same breath, he's capable of telling Reuters' reporter that Intel is taking a neutral view of the impending competition between Symbian and Microsoft's Windows CE. You wouldn't credit that this is a man whose company just last week (see Intel network scheme means war with Microsoft) announced it would build a range of cheap, embedded network devices that won't be running Microsoft operating systems and that look like they won't be very happy connecting to NT servers either. Meanwhile, Barrett's claimed neutrality between CE and Symbian doesn't sit happily with Intel's recently discovered enthusiasm for StrongARM, likely to be the platform for at least some of the aforementioned 'thin server appliance', and a strong contender as the platform of choice for the next generation of phones form Symbian companies. The point here is that Intel focussing on ARM will inevitably tug it into the Symbian camp. To understand why you need to understand what Symbian is about. Looked at from the wrong direction it's an alliance of Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia that was stitched-up in order to provide them with a platform for their smart phones and communications devices. Granted, it is that as far as these companies are concerned, but the other part of the Symbian group, Psion, is the one that's contributing the OS technology, and its goals are rather different. In setting up Psion Software, the part of the group that turned into Symbian earlier this year, Psion was aiming to OEM a tightly-linked software and hardware platform consisting of ARM hardware and Psion's EPOC32 OS. Psion's software has been developed over a long period for low resource platforms, and it's appropriate for a whole range of devices in the mobile, pocket and embedded markets. Windows CE isn't. A CE port to ARM now exists, and Microsoft has all sorts of plans for extending CE into other markets, but at the moment the company's main focus seems to be on the Jupiter version of CE, a fatter version that may cannibalise sales of Windows on sub-notebooks. So if Intel's going to be fabbing StrongARM and designing new generations of the chip (which it is), it'll find its customers will tend to be using EPOC for a lot of their devices, and it will probably find itself at least considering the OS for some of its own devices. On the other hand, ARM's latest licensing deal with HP may give CE a boost if one of HP's plans is to switch its line of CE machines to ARM, but ARM's joining Intel in Bluetooth suggests that large numbers of StrongARM sales will go via a different route. And Intel's own Java development will surely turn the company's thoughts to JavaOS, or even StrongARM-based Java chips. But if Craig says he's still great chums with Bill, it must be true, right? ® Click for more stories

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