Linux has stolen a march over Windows after Intel opted this week to use the free operating system for a range of new Web appliances, pushing aside Microsoft, its long-term OS partner.
The consumer Web appliance products will be designed for accessing the Internet and targeted at telecom operators and service providers who will offer them to consumers.
The first Intel-branded products, based on Intel's Celeron processor, will be available in mid-2000 and will integrate Internet access with telephony features such as call management and unified messaging.
The big loser is Windows CE, the cut-down version of the Windows operating system, that Microsoft has been touting as the answer for such devices.
IDC analyst Peter Lemon said, "Microsoft must be very concerned. Their message is traditionally, 'we have the bigger and better operating system,' but this philosophy doesn't work for the appliances. Despite Intel and Microsoft being each other's best partners for 15 years, Microsoft is being cut out in these new markets."
A spokesperson for Intel said that Linux has been chosen over other operating systems because "it was the operating system of choice for customers."
He said it is "absolutely not" the beginning of the end of Intel's relationship with Microsoft. "We have a long history of working with Microsoft's product ranges and historically support multiple operating systems."
However, Lemon believes that Intel has chosen Linux because "the operating system is free. Intel can own the whole thing and that is rare."
He believes Linux is a sensible choice on a technology front because "it is ideal for these systems. It has a small footprint compared to Windows. It is easy to configure, small, and you don't need to meddle with it."
The Intel spokesman said the company was not revealing which distribution of Linux would be used. Intel has invested or provided funding to a number of Linux ventures, including Red Hat, Suse, VA Linux and Turbolinux.
Intel has signed an agreement with Telecordia Technologies (formerly Bellcore) for Telecordia to serve as Intel's telephony solutions provider for the Web appliance. Intel is also working with Lucent Technologies to provide a unified messaging solution for service providers.
Future products will also enable retailers to offer ecommerce services to consumers.
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