We're kind of getting used to Intel setting records with its earnings this year, and it capped off its 2010 with another killer quarter. With $11.5 billion in revenue, and a total of $43.6 billion for the year (up 24 percent from last year), Intel is naturally riding high. There's danger lurking on the horizon, however, with Microsoft announcing at CES that the next version of Windows will also run on ARM chips, potentially ending a decades-long x86 dominance in the desktop OS space. Naturally, the topic came up in the earnings call, and here's Intel CEO Paul Otellini's level-headed statement on the topic:
The plus for Intel is that as they unify their operating systems we now have the ability for the first time, one, to have a designed-from-scratch, touch-enabled operating system for tablets that runs on Intel that we don't have today; and, secondly, we have the ability to put our lowest-power Intel processors, running Windows 8 or the next generation of Windows, into phones, because it's the same OS stack. And I look at that as an upside opportunity for us.
On the downside, there's the potential, given that Office runs on these products, for some creep-up coming into the PC space. I am skeptical of that for two reasons: one, that space has a different set of power and performance requirements where Intel is exceptionally good; and secondly, users of those machines expect legacy support for software and peripherals that has to all be enabled from scratch for those devices.
After careful analysis of Paul's voice, we couldn't detect any hints of panic or fear in it, and we buy about 50+ percent of what he's putting down -- a lot better than we expected, to be honest. It's very interesting that he sees the new version of Windows being a "designed-from-scratch, touch-enabled operating system for tablets," and the idea of Windows Phone running on regular Windows is also news to us -- though it certainly makes plenty of sense in the long run (and perhaps Ballmer has been hinting at it). Still, Intel has just as much of a disadvantage making a phone processor as ARM guys have a disadvantage at making high-powered PC processors, and when it comes to legacy support, they'll at least be on pretty equal footing when it comes to a "designed-from-scratch" tablet OS. No matter what, Intel certainly has a great roadmap and a ton of cash right now, so we look forward to a fair CPU fight on all sides of the form factor coin.