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Snapshot: Don't Write off Wintel When Surface 2 Devices Ship

It may or may not have been coincidence but look at the middle reaches of the Techmeme technology news aggregator yesterday and you would see complementary announcements from the old warriors of the PC era, Microsoft and Intel. Microsoft has called a conference for later this month to announce the second generation of its Windows tablets and Intel has begun shipping its ‘Haswell’ low-power Core i3 microprocessor that will run in Windows tablets as well as other devices.

The chips should ensure a longer battery life for the Surface hardware but that alone will not be enough for Microsoft to shore up losses in the sector. Microsoft got off to slow start with its first tablets, writing off a vast sum, and it remains a long way behind Apple and Android variants. The ‘Anyone But Microsoft’ brigade have been quick to jump on the company but a more sober analysis should provide pause for thought on two points.

First, for business computing Surface still has a chance of becoming the standard. The corporate computing desktop, laptop and departmental server remain Microsoft’s world and integration between those environments with tablets represents a powerful continuum for enterprise IT buyers. In particular, Office applications on Surface plays to an old Microsoft strength – offering buyers the simplest path to getting business jobs done for end-users, admins and IT leaders. Users get one familiar set of tools and way to swap data between them, admins need one set of skills and CIOs get one throat to choke. The Apple and Android competition looks consumer-centric and callow by comparison.

As for Intel, although it has received something of a drubbing at the hands of ARM in energy-efficient silicon, it has a long history of learning from its missteps and fixing mistakes. It still exists by founder Andy Grove’s mantra that ‘only the paranoid survive’ and Intel is very paranoid indeed about ARM.

The road back to relevance in smartphones is likely to be long, despite the agreement to buy Nokia’s device business, but in business tablets the game is only getting started and it’s by no means clear that IT shops will tolerate the anarchy and scope for security breaches of BYOD for another category of product so long as Microsoft provides a competitive alternative.

Once the term ‘Wintel’ struck fear into the hearts of competitors as the combination of Microsoft Windows and Intel was seen as an incontestable hegemony. That is longer the case but in tablets for business, Microsoft, and its old partner Intel, can come again.

Martin Veitch is Editorial Director at IDG Connect


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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