On The Computing Battle Royale Happening: Why The Computer Industry Will Change As Never Before.
Par Julien le lundi 15 juin 2009, 13:11 - Lien permanent
Months ago, I wrote about what I was seeing as the most radical
redistribution of roles in the computer industry since the emergence of
personal computers at the beginning of the 80s.
The past months came up with so many announcements and news that it's hard
not to be sunk.
However, here are the most interesting questions for me.
1) The Form Factor Battle: Netbooks are a mirage
There is not a week without one of the major companies in this sector trying
to come up with a new moniker for this "bizarre" no man's land of 5 to 9''
First Intel reinvented the term Netbook to name them.
Then, Microsoft and nVidia started to try to deconsider this new term with the most simple "low cost small" laptops.
Recently, Qualcomm and Freescale started promoting the "Smartbook" name.
I am more on the same camp as Microsoft and nVidia on this: I don't think
that Netbooks can survive as a standalone category for a long time.
As defended at many places on the Web, these computers are sieged between pocketable mobile phone computers that are much more portable and laptops that are much more versatile.
In the 2 to 3 years coming, pocketable will become more and more powerful and able to connect to massive screens and keyboards. In the same time, laptops will become less expensive with Moore's law.
So Netbooks will join the "nice attempt" graveyard of network computer, smart terminal and Co.
There are definitely no room for this cross over: they will die.
2) The Processor Battle: Intel vs. ARM
After exiting the mobile phone ARM-based industry years ago, Intel has come back with an AMD-promoted "x86 everywhere strategy", launching the Atom Brand towards sub-laptop territories, keeping power and compatibility but working on power savviness and integration.
I am quite sure that Intel's focus on Netbooks with the current generation of Atom is just a transitory step towards the main end game.
With the Medfield chipset, due for end of 2010, Intel will be able to target eventually mobile phone and will be in an face to face battle with the ARM's ecosystem, led by Qualcomm, TI and nVidia.
Sure, we'll see mobile phones with Medfield in 2011, probably from obscure Taiwanese companies without enough brand power to really make a difference.
The real deal for Intel would so to sign a deal either with one of the Top Tier mobile phone companies (Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Palm, RIM, HTC and Apple) or with one of the Top Tier desk/laptop companies, that will eventually go to pocketable computing (Dell, HP, Acer, Asus, Toshiba, Sony...).
I think that whatever the deals, Intel will need to find another angle of attack than "x86 compatibility".
Medfield will need to provide a real breakthrough in term of power vs. battery life to have a chance to win.
3) The OS Battle
In the 2 to 3 years coming, we may be on the verge of a radical change in OS
Mobile phone OS suppliers (Palm WebOS, Symbian OS, Mac OS X, Android...) will move up to laptops with cleaner, more web oriented, touch oriented interfaces, able to rival Windows.
And once the Netbookmania has blown off, all the interesting work done (by Jolicloud, gOS Cloud, Intel's Moblin or my friend Olivier Seres' iFrame ) will migrate both to the simplified "laptop segment" and to the pocketable computing world.
I can't know yet who will win and who will loose, whether the 25 year old OS / Hardware unbundling will survive but this is one of the most interesting question of all.
Will the "slimmed down Linux exposing only a browser to the Cloud" work and mark the decline of computing power democratization we've seen for the next 50 years?
Will a dramatically new kind of kernel emerge as we're celebrating the 40th anniversary of Unix?
Finally many questions, few answers, so stay tuned!