After listening to three days of testimony from Intel's Steven McGeady in the Microsoft antitrust trial, I wouldn't hold my breath.
In its public statements Microsoft naturally went out of its way to dismiss signs of a rift between the two companies while its lawyer, Steven Holley, tore into McGeady as a "lone wolf" pursuing a private agenda.
McGeady may or may not be the biased, resentful liar portrayed by Microsoft, but he nonetheless offered compelling testimony of a partnership perennially pockmarked by tension and suspicion.
The common view somehow links Intel (Nasdaq:INTC) and Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) as blood brothers -- one doing silicon, the other doing software, and both making oodles of money. But it happens to be a rich, dysfunctional family. Documents entered into evidence indicate that Microsoft's displeasure with Intel's software plans became exceedingly frank -- McGeady claims to the point of threatening -- and it left a bitter residue on both sides.
Unfortunately, the memo trail only extends as far back as 1996. I'd love to get a peek at the "Dear Bill, Dear Andy" correspondence since Intel's investments in Be and the Linux development house, Red Hat Software.
Linux connection intriguing
The Linux connection is especially intriguing. Intel is placing major bets there in the event that this fast-emerging operating system gets a real head of steam in 1999. On Friday, Pat Gelsinger, who heads up the company's desktop products group, said Intel planned to discuss ways of developing applications for Linux on the Intel architecture at its biannual developers forum in February.
Unlike the sundry computer companies which tremble before Gates & Co., Intel is theoretically strong enough to go its own way when self interest demands. And the truth of the matter is that Intel -- not exactly a shrinking violet itself -- does not cotton to dictates. Yet the company still dumped its Native Signal Processing project: Microsoft says the product was bad technology while McGeady maintains that Microsoft held a gun to Intel's head.
'There's little love lost'
"If you think Intel and Microsoft are forever and ever tied to each other in marriage, you can forget about that," says one former senior official who spent the better part of the last decade working at the chipmaker. "There's little love lost, but we're not talking about romance. It's a profitable partnership for both of them."
And as long as it continues to make money, both companies' senior management will smile for the cameras with each other. But after McGeady, they can't hide the truth that they find the other as annoying as hell.