Is Intel Going Hollywood?

Linux was designed originally for the X86 platform. One of the core legacies of that platform was its openness. Will that legacy last?

Last month in Saving the Net, I sounded a warning about the carriers' threats to restrict the flow of "content" in the Net, to serve their own purposes, as well as those of the "content industry".

Now Intel is not only pushing Viiv as a new platform, but launching a new branding strategy, substituting "leap ahead" for its "intel inside" slogan. Both signal a re-alignment with the content industry, and a shift of core mareting interest away from the computer industry. Are they changing sides, from Silicon Valley to Hollywood?

Those sides are real. Just a ask Professor Lessig.

In PR pushes like this one (believe me, the timing and messages here are highly orchestrated), you have to read between the lines. Let's start with BusinessWeek's January 9 cover story, where we have this:

...the famous Pentium brand will be slowly phased out. In its place: a troika of brands, two of them freshly minted. Viiv (rhymes with "alive") is the name of a new chip for home PCS, designed to replace your TiVo (TIVO ), stereo, and, potentially, cable or satellite set-top box. It will be able to download first-run movies, music, and games, and shift them around the home. Intel also will launch a set of notebook PC chips under the three-year-old Centrino brand, as well as so-called dual-core chips, which will put two processor cores on one sliver of silicon. The new brand "Core" will be put on products that don't meet the specifications of the Viiv or Centrino platforms. The effort is winning high-profile support. On Jan. 10, Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL ), which has never used Intel's chips before, is expected to be one of the first companies to offer products with the dual-core chips.

In a related interview, Intel CEO Paul Otellini says this about Apple and Viiv:

Apple really brings to the Intel family of customers is their innovation. They [have an] ability to not just mix hardware and software, which is unique, but also to drop software upgrades rather frequently to take advantage of hardware changes....

[When it comes to design], they are a front-runner -- people copy some of their design elements. I believe as they start taking advantage of some of our lower-power will drive a trend toward smaller, cheaper, cooler...

I actually think Viiv is a world changer. Independent of the hardware as it evolves, it's DRM-agnostic, but it protects everything. It allows you to move things in a free fashion, but still maintain the desire of the content owners to get paid for what they do. It will change the business models of entertainment and theaters and Hollywood, and it will be for the benefit of consumers.

Looks to me like the content business is getting the platform it wants, from a company that very much wants to be its partner.

One grace of the "Wintel" platform over the last fifteen years has been a wide opening for Linux to grow, first as an alternative OS, and then as the mainstream standard -- at least for servers. Will it have the same advantages when Intel's primary partners are in the consumer electronics (Apple included) rather than the PC industry?

Given my exchange with Paul Otellini at PC Forum three years ago (when he weaseled about the reasons why Centrino was released without Linux device drivers), I'm not optimistic about the prospects -- at least where end user devices are concerned. Servers, again, are another matter.

But I know there is plenty of open source and Linux advocacy inside Intel (pun intended).

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out in the next two weeks, first at CES, and then at Macworld, where Steve Jobs is sure to unveil new Intel-based gear in his keynote on January 10.

I'll be at both shows.

And I'll take your questions with me. Put them in the comments section below.


Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal


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Personally I've always

Singer's picture

Personally I've always admired Apple strategy of innovations

I concur

RV's picture

I agree with your statement warning about the carriers' threats to restrict the flow of "content" in the Net. Well said.

Will any of these chips

John3's picture

Will any of these chips support older operating systems and older versions of windows?

Possible DRM nightmare ?

Anonymous's picture

I have long had considerable concerns about the potential for DRM technology to be abused, without malice, in a way that creates a kind of ¨identity theft¨ nightmare for someone who is selling, donating, or throwing away a computer, or who has had a computer go lost or stolen. If none of these situtations is a problem for the technology then there are usually other vulnerabilties involving network security, token counterfitting, or compromised databases, that could cause their own problems. The few DRM strategies that I have reviewed address the latter concerns, but not the former.

What mechanisms exist in this implementation of the technology to retard or prevent such abuse?

What steps could a person pruchasing a computer with this technology take to protect themselves from such a situtation?

What steps could they take if they found themselves in such a situation in spite of their precautions?

Does this implementation of the technology pose any protection of privacy concerns?


Blog's picture

I agree but with recent complaints from users in regard to this issue, I can see it being possible for the major labels to abandon DRM technology.

On the other hand a form of

Anonymous's picture

On the other hand a form of DRM technology may be here to stay, as the only way record companies can combat piracy.

More about Hollywood

Doc Searls's picture

Here's an interesting piece about the distance between the vectors of Hollywood and the Silicon Valley.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Intels Changes

Chuck Ortega's picture

I was wondering if AMD is going to follow suit or if they would support linux for individuals

I don't think so.

Clair's picture

don't think they would ever agree to do that. They've never done it before and I've head they never would.

I beleive you are wrong, and

Anonymous's picture

I beleive you are wrong, and that they dont support the above operating systems.

Is VIIV just marketing or is there a technical angle?

Anonymous's picture

Is VIIV simply a new marketing term for the natural evolution of the x86 processor line or is this some technical meat to it?

Everything VIIV is supposed to do can be done with existing chips, so is there anything really new or is this just the "mainstreaming" of what those of us on the leading/bleeding edge have already been doing?

Or as some as indicating, is it a massive spin campaign to coverup that the only real "features" are forced DRM being inflicted on the mass market versus the selective DRM we have today?

Because people REALLY want to know...

David Mohring's picture

Illegal drugs are at least a big of a problem as copyright violation in the world today. In fact many of the artists promoted by Hollywood and the American recording industry include many positive drug related references in their scripts and lyrics. So the question is : Would you endorse forced illicit drug testing for all artists, actors and executives involved in content production?

Over 11,000 people die in America each year at the hands of gun violence. The USA has the highest murder rate in the developed world. So the question is : Would you endorse taking away the legal capability of all Americans to bare arms?

In the USA there are over 12,000 speeding-related traffic deaths per year. The technological capability exists to install a "governor" in every new automobile which would deny the driver the ability to exceed the speed limit. So the question is : Would you endorse restricting access to roads and highways to only vehicles that have such a speed restriction system installed?

( If the questioned person says yes to any of the above then pass the quote along to the Hollywood/recording/NRA/automobile media, bloggers and lobby groups etc)

Spam advertising and spyware has become a major problem for computer users. The DRM capability that Intel is offering to content providers would also be available to those wanting to abuse those same user restrictions. Intel is effectively offering the ability to hide malicious content or deny access to content needed to gather evidence for the basis of a complaint. So the question becomes: Why are you offering up this ability to content providers when it denies the owners of the computer the ability to protect themselves?

Whether it is a war on drugs, gun, or road crime restrictive and technological solutions that lock the end users out of the ability to make personal decisions perform actions are effectively a fundamental violation of a person's civil rights, even if taking that action could violate the law of the land.

Even though illicit drug consumption is against the law, wholesale drug testing would be seen as a violation of a persons right to privacy. In fact most American courts would not accept evidence gathered though such an action.

Even though gun related crime is a major problem, taking away the right for any citizens to bare arms would leave them at risk from criminals who would ignore the law as a matter of course.

Even though speeding is a major problem, there are cases it is needed for safety. Overtaking vehicles may require the driver to exceed the speed limit to safely avoid oncoming traffic. Also there are rare cases, such as transporting someone requiring urgent medical treatment, where the even the courts have found that exceeding the speed limit was preferable to the affected person's demise.

While making a copy of copyrighted content may seem trivial in comparison to the examples in the above three paragraphs, remember that Intel along with Adobe and Microsoft is talking of offering this same DRM technology for business, legal and even governmental documents. The ability to blow the whistle on suspect dealings, and pass copies along to the press and even authorities, may be severely restricted in the future.

So the final question to everybody has become: Why should the consumers and citizens have to put up with DRM restrictions on their general purpose computers that they own?

Will any of these chips run

Anonymous's picture

Will any of these chips run 95, 98, xp, or Linux?

Intel (not inside)

Rex Hammock's picture

Doc, could there be a simpler explanation to Intel dropping the "inside." Could it be that a part of the negotiations with Apple included the branding-god Steve Jobs probable balking at dilluting the Apple brand by running that awful "chime" logo at the end of every TV ad? Could Jobs have said, "We'll use your chips if you give us the co-op ad dollars but not require us to bastardize what everyone knows is the most effective brand advertising in (remember, this is Jobs talking) the history of the world"? Intel, willing to do anything to get the Apple business, probably bowed down to Jobs' request. And if so, will Dell, etc., not require the same concessions? Solution: Do away with the "Intel Inside" chime for everyone. Just my theory: You can ask the question.

Intel (not inside)

Doc Searls's picture

I'm sure you're right. Jobs would never profane the exterior of an Apple product with any other company's branding. Nor would he consider Apple anybody's "OEM". Which is why I'm also sure getting co-op dollars are not part of the reasoning here. Apple probably never took any kind of co-op money from Motorola or IBM for the chips in Macs since '84.

Read what Otellini says about Apple being an innovator and all that. It's clear that Apple is leading Intel in ways that Dell, Sony, Toshiba and Acer never did, and never could, since they have for years been executing designs for Microsoft computers. They were, and remain, Microsoft OEMs. Clones, as we used to say. Apple is the living embodiment of the AntiClone.

What the world wants and needs, however, is not just a choice between Microsoft and Apple silos. We need an open hardware platform for personal computing. I want to know if what Intel's doing with Viiv discourages that. I suspect it doesn't, even as it encourages all the DRM obsessives to cripple hardware.

But will any hardware maker come out with open PCs and Laptops ready to run anybody's OS, especially Linux?

That's one thing I'll be wondering at CES.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Could Sun be setting itself up to fill this hole?

John M's picture

I read this article and I gasped. But could SUN come through for everyone by open sourcing it's SPARC architecture? Could Intel, by trying to force people into their new system actually help bring back a dying architecture! How cool would a $600 SPARC laptop with UBUNTU be?

Open source SPARC

Doc Searls's picture

Sun has already open-sourced SPARC. Or so Jonathan Schwartz told me when I interviewed him on stage at the Syndicate conference last month. (The recorded podcast should be out soon.)

A cheap SPARC laptop with UBUNTU, or any Linux, would be way cool.

Doc Searls is the Editor in Chief of Linux Journal

Cheap SPARC laptop with UBUNTU...

Anonymous's picture

I think you mean "wicked cool," rather than "way cool." :-)

I hope I am not out of line adding some levity to a good technical discussion. If so, I will just head back to Slashdot with my tail between my legs. (I know I will have to wait a while before anyone mods me +1 funny here.)

Thanks for the wicked cool insight and for asking the tough questions, Doc.

Its all part of the master plan...

Frank Wylie's picture

I think the strategy evidenced by this move, dovetails quite nicely with the apparent “master plan

the Entertainment Industry

Anonymous's picture

RE your comment "the group with their hooks deepest into the flesh of the Government is the Entertainment Industry", I see it a little differently. The governemnt IS the entertainment industry... of corporate America. Of industry. Of the military. The latter IS the government. What we refer to as our government is all a show. It's called the Democracy Show and it ain't real.

about mobile phones

Maria Design's picture

Well, it depends on the phone. There is a great progress with mobile phones and currently there are phones with over 400 MHz processors. Such example would be a model of Anextek that has 400 MHz Intel PXA255 processor. I cannot NOTmention the Asus P505 Pocket PC Phone which has 520 MHz Intel XScale processor! My first PC was 200MHz so that is just amazing how fast the technologies are developing!