Feeds

Lindows CEO attacks Intel's Centrino Linux lockout

What air supplies did next?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Intel is going through a major internal struggle over desktop Linux, and the pro-Microsoft marketing droids are currently winning, according to Lindows.com CEO Michael Robertson. As evidence, Robertson puts forward the lack of Linux support for Centrino, the mysterious blocking of his company's request to participate in an Intel roadshow, and the last minute pullout of Intel speakers at his Desktop Linux Summit earlier this year.

"Many inside Intel want to fully back consumer Linux products," says Robertson in one of his racier 'Michael's Minute' bulletins. "Intel engineers are active contributors to Linux software development and do an excellent job of ensuring that the latest chips and motherboards have solid Linux support. They've sent many products to our certification labs as part of that process and we're grateful for their support. However, when it comes to packaging those components into complete computers and announcing their availability, strong resistance emerges. It's a classic 'engineering vs. marketing' business struggle. The technology-minded folks see a growing trend that is imperative for them to support in order to stay fully relevent in all areas of the PC business. While the marketing-minded individuals are more worried about the risk of upsetting Microsoft."

This process perhaps explains the roadshow incident. Lindows.com asked to participate in an upcoming show, and according to Robertson the initial reaction was, 'Great. We'd love to have you participate because we're getting increasing interest in Linux desktop machines.' But once it hit marketing, "we are told we cannot participate even though we are willing to pay the required fees and they have told us there is room. Perhaps it is because Microsoft is also a major sponsor of this event".

Well indeed, given that Microsoft and Lindows.com are currently in litigation there might be a certain amount of friction, but they're grown-ups, so they should be able to behave. Or are they? Can they?

In the case of the Intel speakers' pullout of the Desktop Linux Summit, Robertson says that marketing blocked their participation, citing "branding restrictions". He says he doesn't know what they meant by that, and nor indeed do we. However, it does seem to hint either at restrictive agreements with certain other companies, or some form of internal Intel market segmentation that rules out Linux on the desktop.

Robertson says he's most concerned about the lack of Linux support for Centrino. "Intel says that 300 million dollars will go into advertising this new product for mobile computing, but Intel isn't making the small investment to provide Linux drivers. When you see that 'Centrino' sticker on the computer, you can substitute 'Microsoft Windows XP'."

You can see why this gets to him. Centrino is essentially a marketing gambit, a packaging of the Pentium M and Intel's Pro/wireless 2100 mini-PCI Wi-Fi card. There's nothing wildy clever about this, and from the customer's point of view it's really a trade-off between the convenience of getting it all in one package and being restricted to the Intel Wi-Fi card. From Intel's point of view it's a matter of marketing it for all its worth and thus leveraging itself into a dominant position in the notebook Wi-Fi market. Hence the $300 million.

Lindows.com is the company with the highest profile in preinstalled desktop Linux systems, and recently announced a cheap LindowsOS notebook. And here, we think, is where Michael's antennae start twitching. At the moment Lindows.com has made a fair bit of the running with non-Intel systems. You can get preinstalled Intel LindowsOS machines, but you're probably more likely to end up with AMD, or in the small footprint and portable areas, Via.

To progress in the general OEM market Robertson needs to be able to strike deals with Intel; not to be treated equally with, say, Dell or HP yet, but to be taken seriously. In the notebook and tablet markets, the need for a relationship is surely much greater. Breakthrough into the portable markets has mysteriously eluded Intel's rivals, with Transmeta's near-disappearance, despite early support in the tablet arena from Microsoft, being particularly worth noting. Robertson, as we keep saying, is not stupid, he knows a lot of the money is going to come via portable machines, he also knows how determined Intel is, to own the portable market, and how successful it's been so far.

So while other people might think they'd prefer to buy a Pentium M system and a separate Wi-Fi card, no problem, that $300 million on Centrino marketing hurts Michael deeply. And long term, he's right. For as long as there is no rival that is treated as seriously by Intel in the desktop sector as Microsoft is, then the rivals will find it hard going - they will not be serious rivals. Whether or not the first serious rival should be Michael is an entirely different matter, but credit where credit's due, he's taking a shot at it - who else is? ®

Maximizing your infrastructure through virtualization

More from The Register

next story
Whoah! How many Google Play apps want to read your texts?
Google's app permissions far too lax – security firm survey
Chrome browser has been DRAINING PC batteries for YEARS
Google is only now fixing ancient, energy-sapping bug
Do YOU work at Microsoft? Um. Are you SURE about that?
Nokia and marketing types first to get the bullet, says report
Microsoft takes on Chromebook with low-cost Windows laptops
Redmond's chief salesman: We're taking 'hard' decisions
EU dons gloves, pokes Google's deals with Android mobe makers
El Reg cops a squint at investigatory letters
Big Blue Apple: IBM to sell iPads, iPhones to enterprises
iOS/2 gear loaded with apps for big biz ... uh oh BlackBerry
OpenWRT gets native IPv6 slurping in major refresh
Also faster init and a new packages system
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.