Intel Aims for World Domination, x86 Everywhere

The Intel Developer Forum is currently in full swing, but it kicked off with a speech by Intel CEO Paul Otellini. Well, there’s bad news for those of us who long for a time where lots of different architectures compete with one another, ensuring that technology is moved forward. Otellini’s plans for Intel basically come down to one thing: x86 everywhere.

x86 or die

Paul Otellini’s keynote speech at the IDF was themeda “continuum of computing”, and in it, he laid out Intel’s plan to get an x86 chip in every device, from phones all the way up to supercomputers – but the focus was clearly the mobile space. The key development here is 32nm, which enables x86 (Intel’s prefers “Intel Architecture”) to be used in every device, big and small.

“Users and developers have to have the freedom to move seamlessly back and forth across this continuum,”, Otellini said. However, the focus lay on mobile devices, which is currently pretty much dominated by ARM. Intel has 12 System-on-Chip designs in the pipeline for this purpose.

We here at OSNews – and maybe me specifically – really prefer a processor market which is not dominated by x86. Contrary to what you might think, this has nothing to do with this archaic idea that x86 is somehow inferior. No, it has to do with the simple competition: if everything is x86, and it becomes the norm on every type of device, competition in the processor market is pretty much dead not only in the desktop space (where it’s x86 all the way already), but also the mobile space, where ARM plays a major role, and even something like MIPS pops up every now and then.

I want a world where x86, SPARC, PowerPC, ARM, MIPS, and whatever else we can come up with compete with one another on all levels of devices, from big servers to small mobile phones. This keeps companies on their toes, and provides fertile ground for new and innovative ideas to take hold. It’s pretty much a pipe dream for now, though.

We’ve seen what a monoculture can lead to time and time again in our little geek world. Internet Explorer, Windows, and so on. It took long and hard work from mostly the open source community and Apple to force Microsoft to start improving their products.

Moblin & Atom

Intel also had quite a lot to say about Moblin, the company’s mobile operating system platform, based on Linux. They announced that both Adobe and Microsoft are supporting not only Windows, but also Moblin as platforms for their runtime environments, Flex and Silverlight. Does this mean Silverlight will find its way to Linux officially, from Microsoft?

On top of all this, Intel announced the Intel Atom Developer Program, a set of tools and SDKs aimed specifically towards developing applications for Atom-based netbooks and handhelds. “The netbook has become one of the most popular consumer devices in the market today, but its true potential has been limited by applications that are not optimized for its mobility and smaller screen size,” Intel said, “The Intel Atom Developer Program provides a great opportunity for developers to create useful and inventive applications that will unlock a netbook’s potential while opening a new sales and distribution channel.”


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