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Celerons and Linux to power Intel Web appliances

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Intel will announce its plans for consumer Web appliances at a conference in Las Vegas today. The company is to sell appliances with the Intel logo to telecom operators and service providers, which will then sell them on to consumers. These are not PCs running any version of Windows, which is not good news for Microsoft, given Intel's undoubted ability to manufacture and sell its products. An Intel representative confirmed that the machines will run a version of the Linux OS, and will use Celeron, not StrongARM processors to power the boxes. This is a bit of a volte face, as Chipzilla originally had plans to incorporate the StrongARM technology it acquired as part of a FTC-brokered deal with Digital, in such devices. There will be several machines available in the range, which will be rolled out around the middle of this year, according to Intel. The boxes will include both Internet and telephony features, but it is unclear whether other applications will run on the boxes. Nor does Intel yet seem to have a name for the devices, which may well spell a further stage in the company's gradual move away from Microsoft. As we have reported here on many occasions before, Intel also has no problems executing on software. Many components in Microsoft Windows 98 were provided by Intel, and last year its Architecture Lab demoed a user interface that owed little or nothing to a Windows software metaphor. What is clear is that the machines will soak up some of Intel's fab capacity, and the boxes may well use several speeds of Celeron processors, although it seems unlikely that the Megahertz clock wars will play a part in the marchitecture. Intel did not make clear which version of Linux will power its Web boxes. A statement from the company said that it has already struck deals with a number of other companies including NEC, French firm Laser Galeries Lafayette and Lucent to assist its Web appliance push. Later on this year, Intel plans to provide its Timna, "system on a chip", processor, which will also be used in set top boxes and Web appliances. That will allow it to compete with National Semiconductor's Geode processor, which already has quite a clutch of design wins. It may be that Intel has turned on the Celeron tap so full that using these processors in the devices will clear the stockpile. Having played Caesar III over the holidays, we're aware that it is possible to end up with far too many widgets in a warehouse... ®

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