Wintel - Dominance


Over the following years, both firms in the Wintel partnership would attempt to extend their monopolies. Intel made a successful major push into the motherboard and chipset markets—becoming the largest motherboard manufacturer in the world and, at one stage, almost the only chipset manufacturer—but badly fumbled its attempt to move into the graphics chip market, and (from 1991) faced sharp competition in its core CPU territory from AMD, Cyrix, VIA and Transmeta.

Microsoft fared better. In 1990, Microsoft had two competitors in its core market (Digital Research and IBM), Intel had none. By 1996, Intel had two competitors in its core market (CPUs), while Microsoft had none. Microsoft had pursued a policy of insisting on per-processor royalties, thus making competing operating systems unattractive to computer manufacturers and provoking regulatory scrutiny from the European Commission and US authorities, leading to an undertaking by Microsoft to cease such practices. However, the integration of DOS into Windows 95 was the masterstroke: not only were the other operating system vendors frozen out, Microsoft could now require computer manufacturers to comply with its demands on pain of higher prices (as when it required IBM to stop actively marketing OS/2 or else pay more than twice as much for Windows 95 as its competitor Compaq) or by withholding "Designed for Windows 95" endorsement (which was regarded as an essential hardware marketing tool). Microsoft was also able to require that free publicity be given over to them by hardware makers. (For example, the Windows key advertising symbols on all modern keyboards, or the strict license restrictions on what may or may not be displayed during system boot and on the Windows desktop.) Also, Microsoft was able to take over most of the networking market (formerly the domain of Lantastic and Novell) with Windows NT, and the business application market (formerly led by Lotus and WordPerfect) with Microsoft Office.

Although Microsoft is by far the dominant player in the Wintel partnership now, Intel's continuing influence should not be underestimated. Intel and Microsoft, once the closest of partners, have operated at an uneasy distance from one another since their first major dispute, which had to do with Intel's heavy investment in the 32-bit optimized Pentium Pro and Microsoft's delivery of an unexpectedly high proportion of 16-bit code in Windows 95. Both firms talk with one another's competitors from time to time, most notably with Microsoft's close relationship with AMD and the development of Windows XP Professional x64 Edition utilizing AMD-designed 64-bit extensions to the x86 architecture, and Intel's decision to sell its processors to Apple Inc.

The Wintel platform is still the dominant desktop and laptop computer architecture.

There have been opinions that Microsoft Windows by its natural software bloat has eaten up much of the "hardware progress" that Intel processors gave to the "Wintel platform" via Moore's law. Both companies tried to kill the OLPC XO-1 $100 laptop project. After the rise of netbooks media have speculated predicting a possible end of Wintel dominance with more and more cheap devices employing other technologies.

Intel is investing in Linux, and Microsoft is porting Windows to the ARM architecture.

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