The longtime Wintel partnership in the PC world has officially fractured and realigned due to the success of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and ARM (NASDAQ:ARMH) CPU cores in the smartphone and tablet wars. A couple of very significant announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show reveal what is happening.
First, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) had previously announced that Windows 8, due in 2012, would run on both Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) CPU architectures and the popular ARM architecture used in most smartphones and tablets. At CES, Texas Instruments (NYSE:TXN) announced Windows 8 support for its OMAP chips, which have the ARM CPU cores. While other ARM chipset and smartphone makers will no doubt support Windows 8, the T. I. announcement is significant because it is one of the few chip makers with the fab capacity and capabilities to compete with Intel in the long run. This will likely evolve into a battle between Intel, T.I., Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) for mobile chipset market share.
Meanwhile, Intel has not been standing still as the smartphone market has been running away from them. Intel made a major announcement at CES with Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) (in process of being acquired by Google) of a multi-year deal in which Motorola will create smartphones and tablets based on the next generation Atom CPU mobile chipsets provided by Intel. This is very significant because it is an endorsement from Motorola and by extension Google for the Intel mobile architecture and chipsets. This also means Google will be providing extensive resources to create the open source version of Android for Intel that will be needed to make the Intel chips a success. It is speculation, but my guess is that these plans between Intel and Motorola Mobility were going on before the acquisition, and may have been an extra incentive for Google to acquire not only the smartphone maker but an extensive partnership with industry powerhouse Intel, and at the same time weaken the relationship between Intel and arch rival Microsoft.
The biggest technology issue is getting those thousands of apps in Google’s android app store running on the Intel based phones. But this is not as difficult as it may seem, because most of these apps are written in high level and interpreted software languages such as Java, so most will run as is or with minor modifications once Google has created the new Android for Intel.
There will many more interesting developments in the smartphone wars in 2012, which will impact the stock valuations of all of these companies and the technology sector in particular. But don't count out Intel and Microsoft as many observers have done recently.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.