"We are caving to Intel"

I'm more and more intrigued by the Vista sticker emails, and what they reveal about Microsoft's relationship with its partners.Intel is in a particularly complex position: neither company is a major customer of the other, both also deal with the other's competition, yet it takes both to set the controls for the near-term future of a great deal of the IT market.

I'm more and more intrigued by the Vista sticker emails, and what they reveal about Microsoft's relationship with its partners.

Intel is in a particularly complex position: neither company is a major customer of the other, both also deal with the other's competition, yet it takes both to set the controls for the near-term future of a great deal of the IT market. I can't off-hand think of an analogy elsewhere in business.

But what is the precise nature of the companies' relationship? Both are extremely large public companies, to the point that both are regularly investigated by regulators for anti-trust reasons. Both must conform to the strictest of financial reporting requirements. But the relationship isn't commercial - no money's involved, or at least nothing of significance. There is no competition between the companies - they don't share a market - so there's no question of price fixing or other cartel behaviour.

Unless there's court-mandated disclosure as a result one or the other of the parties doing something wrong, there's no reason for anything that passes between MS and Intel to be public. Given the paranoia hard-wired into both companies, that's just the way they like it. You certainly won't get anywhere by asking people on either side, except for the most general candyfloss platitudes.

There are plenty of commercial relationships involving Microsoft that have more questions than answers: Citrix, Novell, the BBC, the NHS. But none has so many far-reaching implications, nor is so hard to examine, as the mysterious Ballmer-Otellini axis.

But whatever it is, it's strong. It made Microsoft knowingly compromise its entire Vista launch strategy, to the extent that Vista now has a terrible reputation and MS is in court. That's some compromise.

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