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Kiss and Intel tale of paranoid practices.

One interesting footnote of the recent legal hearings into Microsoft's business practices was that it had allegedly threatened the mighty Intel, and persuaded it to cease development of Internet software.

This got me to investigate further, because the world thinks Intel makes chips and processors - not software.

What's going on?

Intel carries out basic research in its Intel Architecture Labs (IAL). It is not a traditional research operation like the labs at IBM, which are more concerned with discovery than development: at IAL development comes first.

IAL, based in Oregon, concentrates on platform architectures, data types, application software, and protocols which will expand the computer market in the near future - not blue sky research which may or may not have an application.

Many of today's common PC technologies originated here: PCI, DVD, USB, Winsock2. Intel uses the IAL to grow the overall size of the market, to bring about applications that will generate demand for faster processors ahead of their adoption.

If you've already got 80per cent market share you earn more by growing the market than taking market share from competitors.

Enhancing the "end-user experience" is the work of IAL. It is quite separate from Intel's product development engineers who will be revealing a raft of new products and product directions at their annual developers' conference this week - this is where n ext year's computing platform designs are fleshed out.

So what is Intel up to?

Lots of work is being done on 3D and voice recognition. IAL software developers are even working with speech-enabling Internet gaming.

Most multi-user role-playing games let users communicate with each other in real time over the Internet, but it is usually text-based and means you have to stop playing and type messages.

Using standard PC hardware and existing Internet telephone software, Intel researchers have solved this problem with multipoint audio versions of games.

As you play, you talk with distant competitors as if they are sitting next to you. To keep up the network access speeds needed for heavy Internet applications such as these, Intel is leading development of technology known as xDSL, which provides up to t en times the speeds enjoyed by today's modems but still over copper lines.

If that isn't fast enough for you, Intel is also working on cable and satellite modems.

One of IAL's most fascinating projects is the Connected Car PC. There are two separate computing environments - driver and passenger.

Simple data entry devices and voice commands to the Connected Car PC gives the driver directions, traffic reports, weather forecasts, commuting information, entertainment information, and road assistance.

For passengers, the platform provides PC games, television feeds, DVD movies, Internet access, e-mail, faxing, and business applications.

Intel has already licensed the technology to several car manufacturers.

There is even a project known as Anywhere in the Home (AITH), which aims to unleash the potential of computing throughout the home, throughout the day.

Intel is developing three core technologies for AITH, which embeds integrated controllers to operate household machines and electronics; handheld devices for voice and e-mail communication between family members inside and outside the home; and portable receivers for personalised information and entertainment channels. Voice, face and gesture input will all play a part in AITH.

IAL engineers realise that improving and standardising data types, communication protocols, and software platforms is as important as improving the physical machine.

Standard-based devices become successful; they drive everything from high volumes, to low pricing for customers, to actually making things work. And such development requires the help of other major PC vendors and companies outside the industry.

All this is obviously designed to make us consume more of Intel's faster and new processors and enrich Intel, but if it enriches our lives as well, why worry?

If you are Microsoft, however, you might worry that Intel could stray on to your turf. Perhaps they've adopted Intel's famous management slogan - only the paranoid survive!

Brian Prangle is New Product Services Manager at Specialist Computer Services (SCC).
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Author:Prangle, Brian
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 15, 1998
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