FRAMINGHAM, 20 JANUARY 2011 - The rise of Apple's iPad and Android tablets has largely left Intel (INTC) and Microsoft in the dust, in need of technology and marketing boosts to halt the momentum of Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG).
Because Intel and Microsoft (MSFT) are nearly joined at the hip when it comes to supplying chips and the operating system for desktop and laptop computers, there has been much speculation about the future of the companies' partnership since Microsoft announced the next generation of Windows will also support the same ARM processors that are widely used in smartphones and tablets.
In all likelihood, though, the Intel/Microsoft partnership will have to stay strong for the companies to make a dent in the emerging market for touch-screen devices, which both change the way users interact with computers and provide longer-lasting batteries than most desktops. But these efforts are just getting started, the Intel executive charged with leading the chipmaker's newly formed tablet and netbook division said in an interview this week.
Intel chips will be in tablets running multiple operating systems, including Android, but the ones available at retail today are mainly Windows-based devices, said the Intel executive, corporate Vice President Doug Davis. But he acknowledges that Windows is not, at least yet, ideally suited to the tablet age.
"For the average user who wants to use finger touch and multi-touch, the Windows 7 touch environment doesn't support that very well," Davis said.
Windows does, however, work well with several "hybrid" use cases that involve a combination of keyboard and touch, stylus and touch, or all of the above, he said. "It depends on how you want to use it," Davis said. "We're seeing a number of instances where there are Windows-based tablets developed for certain types of usage, that are a great solution."
Davis said he can't speak for Microsoft, but noted that Microsoft's public statements indicate the company is working on adapting the next generation of Windows for touch-based computing.
"What I understand is they're taking the Windows 7 basic architecture and they're adapting it to extend beyond PCs and into other devices," he said. "The way I interpret that is they're creating more scalability in that baseline operating system."
Microsoft unveiled numerous Windows 7-based tablets at this month's Consumer Electronics Show, including an Acer ICONIA (powered by Intel Core i5) with two 14-inch touch screens, and others with slide-out or Bluetooth keyboards.
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