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Intel to sell own brand PCs within six months?

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The Register has suggested to Intel Insiders on several occasions that Chipzilla is but a few short steps away from building and selling its own PCs. On each occasion the reaction has been subtly different. A year back they laughed; six months ago they said it would never happen; today they stare at their shoes and mumble something non-committal. While a move into Intel-badged PCs would piss off the big OEMs big time, let’s look at where Chipzilla is today. It makes 80 per cent plus of the CPUs on the planet. It makes motherboards for them. It makes graphics chipsets (well, it tries) and graphics cards, it makes networking gizmos, cameras and complete videoconferencing systems which already carry the Intel logo on the box. The only thing Intel doesn’t make is the cases to put the stuff in, the disks and RAM. In other words, the chip behemoth builds a whole hell of lot more of what goes into a computer than any PC company on the planet. At the high end, Intel builds almost ready-to-run systems based on the Xeon in what it bills ‘time to market’ offerings enabling smaller OEMs to put together complex server and workstation configurations in the shortest possible time – ever wondered why all mid range Xeon servers look the same? – they’re all built by Intel. Now that Chipzilla is keen to see PCs looking a lot snazzier – check out the concept PC designs it has shown at the last two Developer Forii – what better time for it to bite the bullet and make the things itself? Oh yes, the OEM reaction. Intel’s customers would not be too keen to find that their principal supplier was now a rival – but realistically speaking, what the hell could they do about it? Who else could they turn to to supply high end Xeon equivalents, mainstream Pentium IIIs and cheapo Celerons? No one with half a brain wants to move to Alpha (Compaq might, but like we said no one with half a brain would) At the low end Celeron is now merrily chomping its way back into the sub $1,000 market that, due to an erratumnotbug in its marketing department, Chipzilla temporarily loaned to AMD last year. One thing you could never accuse Intel of is a lack of confidence – it believes down to the last quark of its corporate soul that it has the best products on the planet (and, rather irritatingly, this is almost true). If you were Dell or Gateway, would you bet the farm on AMD’s ability to deliver? Thought not. So if Intel were to decide to sell its own systems, the vast majority of OEMs would have to grin and bear it. Up until six months ago, Intel had an entire plant in the US dedicated to building vanilla systems for internal demo use. At the time, rumour had it that it was closed partly as a result of pressure from OEMs. Intel has a well established support network in place - both web and phone based - that could provide all the support PC users might need. Buying Gateway (or Compaq?) would be one option for Intel’s PC ambitions, but suppose Chipzilla were to offer each of its leading OEMs the chance to build a different concept PC and put an Intel badge on it while continuing with their mainstream designs for the more staid customers. That might just work. ®

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