Intel talks Linux, netbooks and rivalry with ARM

Summary:ZDNet UK spoke to Intel's Imad Sousou at this year's Open Source In Mobile conference in Amsterdam, to discuss the evolution of the chipmaker's Moblin Linux distribution

...your media, viewing documents and so on. People tend not to use a netbook to create content.

Is it possible to change consumer attitudes to netbooks, to convince them not to expect a PC-like experience?
I don't think it's up to us to change how [customers view netbooks]. In a lot of ways it's the other way around. We will support and do what our customers and end users want to do rather than trying to force some usage model on the end users. We won't advocate you should use this versus that.

How does Moblin stack up against Windows 7 on netbooks?
Windows 7 is a great platform for netbooks and we worked very closely with Microsoft on optimising the Windows 7 OS to our platforms. It depends on what the usage model is — if somebody wants a PC, they should use Windows. We follow our end users and our customers, and if someone wants Windows, that's great. If [they want] Linux, that's great.

Moblin is also tailored for MIDs, which is a segment that hasn't taken off yet. Will MIDs become more popular?
The Nokia N900 is fundamentally a MID — a device that can do PC functionality and that includes a phone. End users want devices that can bring a full internet experience, viewing the web in a real way with Flash completely running, with all the normal plug-ins and content you would normally see. By definition, that's fundamentally what a MID is.

In my opinion, I don't see the MID as a new category. It's more an evolution of smartphones. There is some confusion [surrounding] the name. It's good to have terminology for something like a MID — it distinguishes it in what you are really getting. With the term 'netbooks', people said it was just a small notebook, and we said 'Fine, it's just a small notebook, so let's call it something that means that'."

Intel suddenly has a lot of competitors in the netbook and MID markets, with ARM architecture being used by companies like Qualcomm and Nvidia. How do you view these new rivals?
It's very hard to comment, because I haven't seen any of [the resulting devices]. For the past year and a half, I've been hearing about the ARM netbook or smartbook, but I haven't seen anything to see if it works.

From my personal experience, over the past several years I have been seeing people trying to put a PC OS on ARM, but you simply don't get the experience. It's the phone-browsing experience on a larger screen.

Unless the ARM ecosystem is able to fix the software problem of being able to provide a real internet experience, real compatibility and those things, it will be difficult because the internet is designed fundamentally for the PC.

Our long experience has shown that the internet changes things and it's not the other way around. Trying to do it the other way, in terms of the internet adapting to a different class of devices… it is hard to understand how that will happen.

What do you mean? Are you saying that web is designed for the x86 platform?
Fundamentally, that's true. It's designed for the PC in general and, unless your platform is designed to be PC-compatible, you will always… if you are able to show 90 percent of the internet but you cannot show ESPN and MTV and whatever your top 10 websites are, which are generally media-rich, that's what people use those devices for. These are connected devices for internet — the point of being connected is to use the internet.

What about Google's entry into the Linux OS market with Chrome? Do you have any view on that?
We will have to wait and see. Google does great things. From an Intel perspective, we don't view this as a competitor — we work with Google and everyone. We don't view Moblin as a competing OS to other Linux distributions; we work with them. With any Linux-based OS, we will provide them with whatever help they need.

Will Intel work with Google on the development of the Chrome OS?

Has this collaboration started yet?
We work with Google in the upstreams: in the kernel, graphics subsystem, plotter and all these great upstream Linux products. This is what happens in the open-source community.

If you look at our work in Bluetooth, the maintenance of Bluetooth and what happens in the Linux Bluetooth stuff is done by Intel. That's used in Android, in the [Nokia] N900, in Moblin — we developed most of that in Moblin, but it gets used everywhere.

A lot of the technologies we use that we developed in Moblin, you will see everywhere. This is how open-source works.

Topics: Tech Industry


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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