Intel eyes Google, but Microsoft is mainstay

For those few Netbooks not running Windows, Intel is hedging its bets. Chipmaker has quietly endorsed Google's Chrome OS, which is slated to appear on Netbooks in 2010.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Intel is endorsing Google's future Chrome operating system, but the chipmaker is being cautious as it already has a successful strategy supplying chips for Windows-based mobile devices.

Last week, makers of processors based on the ARM design, such as Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, were quick to cheer the news of Google's Chrome, which is slated to first appear on Netbooks in 2010.

"We're thrilled about the news that Google just issued," Ramesh Iyer, TI's head of worldwide business development for mobile computing, said last week. "You can see how simple the user interface is and how easy it is to access stuff," he said, referring to current Google applications available on the Web. "Think of (Chrome) as the next-gen of all of that."

Intel was more guarded in its statements. "We welcome Google's move," said Intel spokeswoman Claudine Mangano, but added: "We try to ensure Intel processors run on a variety of software." Chrome is slated to launch simultaneously on both ARM and Intel processors.

Though Intel is officially software agnostic, unofficially its chips are inextricably linked with Microsoft's Windows software as the hardware half of the most popular hardware-software PC platform on earth. And Intel's Atom is already the processor of choice for the most popular Netbooks worldwide from Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Toshiba, Sony, Acer, and others.

Atom will hold more than an 80 percent share of the 23.5 million Netbooks sold in 2009, according to a report released Monday by the Information Network, a New Tripoli, Pa.-based market research company.

Most of those Netbooks run Windows--which Google is looking to displace. "Consumers buying Netbooks so far have voted Windows," said Jeff Orr, senior analyst, mobile content, at ABI Research, in a phone interview.

The ARM chip camp is hoping to link its processors with Google in much the same way Intel is associated with Microsoft's popular Windows software. "Coming from the ARM side, they lack a Windows XP, Windows 7 solution," Orr said.

ARM processors are supplied by chip manufacturers Texas Instruments and Qualcomm, among others, and power devices such as the Palm Pre and T-Mobile Android smartphones, respectively. The Information Network projects that the ARM processor will gain a 55 percent market share of the 96 million Netbooks sold in 2012.

But for the foreseeable future, Netbooks will run Windows on top of Intel's Atom processor. And for those few Netbooks not running Windows, Intel is hedging its bets. The world's largest chipmaker also showed, as part of a technology demonstration, an Atom-based Netbook running Google's Android operating system at Computex.