Intel: MeeGo exists because Microsoft let us down

Even Windows 7 doesn't do enough for Atom, says chip giant

James Reinders

Despite saying that "Intel is very supportive of Windows," James Reinders, Chief Evangelist of Software Tools at Intel, criticises Microsoft roundly in an interview with TechRadar.

Why? He says it's taken too long for the software giant to make Windows run well on Atom and to make a success of Intel's UMPC and MID ideas.

There are new tools on the way from Intel this year (as well as a new layer in Windows 7, the concurrency runtime) to help programmers do the tricky parallel programming that you need to take advantage of multicore – but that's not enough to solve all the problems, especially for Atom.

Five years ago, Reinders still had to work on convincing developers that PCs weren't going to keep on getting faster; "People would ask me 'isn't Intel just going invent a faster transistor?'

"Now I don't have to explain it anymore." But while he hopes that major app vendors like Adobe will take full advantage of multi-core systems, "I think we have a few years before people say it's really happening."

Atom's multicore future

Even Atom will go multicore, in time. "It will be a little bit slower initially because of the power constraints but as time marches on we will solve the power problem." That's important because until then, he agrees that "netbooks will definitely hold us back" by making developers less interested in writing parallel code that won't run on them.

Today games developers do the most with multi-core, he says; "There are games you can buy that do more physics simulation than they probably did on the Manhattan project." But he predicts those techniques will move quickly into the user interface for other apps.

"I think we're going to get hugely addicted to using compute power for human interface - head tracking and so on". Microsoft Office already uses multiple threads for different tasks; "There's parallelism in places you don't expect," says Reinders.

"Word does spell checking and grammar checking in the background and if you're on a multi-core system you'll see those little squiggles appear under the words much more quickly." He's excited about the way IE9 will use a second core to speed up JavaScript and predicts that "HTML 5 is going to drive a lot of parallelism in future."

Why so long for Windows on Atom?

He doesn't claim any inside information about Windows 8, but expects it to do more parallelism. "I think the OS will change. I know nothing but I can anticipate them changing [task] scheduling and improving some of things they do to handle multi-core." He predicts that confidently because, he says, "It has to be a priority."

Partly that's because although the new concurrency runtime makes it easier to make one application speed up by taking advantage of multiple cores, it won't help if multiple apps are trying to do that. "If you run three [instances], they will try to oversubscribe the machine."

"Microsoft hasn't been quite as aggressive as we might have hoped at supporting Atom, especially in the embedded space and that's why we came up with our platform Moblin - which is now MeeGo. Intel is all about platform choice, choice of operating system and so on, and we believe in the opportunity of embedded very strongly.

Windows 7 "doesn't go the places we think Atom will go"

"Some of their Windows offerings are great now, but Moblin started a number of years ago when we didn't see Windows in that space at all. We're thrilled to death to see user mode scheduling in Windows 7 but the progress of Windows 7 still limited - it doesn't go all the places we think Atom will go."

Those places include smartphones, MIDs, tablets and in-car systems, for a start, and Android – or the version of Mac OS in the iPad – just isn't enough in his view. "We feel people want an operating system that is more powerful on these devices.

Pushing Moblin is definitely about getting more choice it that space." Intel partnered with Nokia to turn Moblin into the more smartphone-friendly MeeGo, but Intel doesn't always come out on top in the partnership; Reinders predicts Nokia will get MeeGo devices to market before Intel can. He admits; "It's a challenge for us.

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