Intel, Microsoft Records Make Trust a Tough Sell

By David Morgenstern  |  Posted 2004-10-24 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Shifting roadmaps and poor execution of plans give customers and partners little reason to trust Intel and Microsoft, even as execs talk up what they say is ahead.

The foremost companies of our industry this year look to be having trouble executing on plans to provide technologies promised in ballyhooed promotions.

But as customers and partners complain about changes and failed strategies, the response from corporate executives remains the same: Trust us!

That simple, don't-worry-be-happy message—so easy to give as well as to receive when things are going well—becomes less credible and more worrisome with each tweak of a product roadmap.

Both Intel and Microsoft provide leading examples of this dilemma since the companies have either canceled or pared back major technology directions this year.

For example, here's a rundown of some of Intel's recent twists and turns:

  • In January, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Intel said it would produce LCOS (liquid crystal on silicon) processors for high-definition televisions in 2005. Analysts said the chip—as well as the backing of an industry leader such as Intel—would shake up the economics for this growing market. Intel said the chip would let vendors offer 50-inch HDTVs costing less than $2,000.

    The company was expected to ship sample chips to partners in the summer, but nothing was released. In mid-August, Intel said it would delay the product.

    The company instead was "evolving its development plans and won't bring our initial product to market this year," a spokeswoman told ExtremeTech at the time. "We are heading down a path of developing technology that will enable clear product differentiation with improved picture quality."

    Well, that evolution came to a dead end this month as the company pulled the plug on the chip and involvement in the market.

  • First slated for release this fall, a 4-GHz version of the Pentium 4 architecture in late July was reported delayed until early 2005. But Intel this month said it had canceled plans for the single-core processor.

    Read an eWEEK interview here with Intel CEO Craig Barrett on the gigahertz race and other matters.

    The company now points to its advancement of performance, power-handling and production capabilities with forthcoming dual-core processors, due later in 2005 and 2006. The transition to multiple cores aims to address the growing problems of current leakage and power consumption found in the faster chips made using the company's smaller fabrication process.

    Next Page: Putting on a game face.

    While putting a game face on the subject, this shift away from straightforward clock performance is mostly new to Intel, having already been tackled by competitors Advanced Micro Devices and IBM. The acceptance by customers and different market segments to this transition remains unclear, analysts said.

    To read more about Intel's transition to dual-core architecture, click here.

  • In the summer, Intel admitted finding a "root flaw" in the chip sets supporting its 64-bit Nocona processor aimed at workstations and servers. The problem involves the integrity of the PCI Express data handling and will be fixed with an update by the end of the year, the company said.

  • Intel has touted its support of various technologies into chip sets to partners and analysts. As a major backer of Wi-Fi and WiMAX wireless standards, Intel heavily promoted its "Grantsdale" chip set, which would let a laptop function as a Wi-Fi access point.

    But this summer, the company admitted that a manufacturing flaw in the chip would prevent customers from gaining the advertised functionality. And Intel later stated it will never provide the support.

    Still, a company spokesman described this move as a "business decision," adding that system vendors "told us that they didn't need this feature at this point."

    These shifting roadmaps and mistakes have sapped developer and partner confidence in the company, which has been admitted by Intel executives.

    At the Intel Developer Forum in early September, chief operating officer Paul Otellini apologized to a keynote audience, calling the problems "some fumbles." He said future goals will be more closely aligned with capabilities.

    Click here to read about how Intel is vague on processor delivery schedules.

    However, from the continuing shifts in plans since that admission, and the company's reported hazy approach to shipment forecasts, it looks as if little has changed behind the Intel curtain.

    Let's face it, offering a target of a year for a product will improve shipment performance statistics; it's just not very useful data. Consider if airlines started counting their on-time performance for flights by the day instead of by the minute, we wouldn't have much to judge by, would we?

    Next Page: Microsoft's sorry record.

    Meanwhile, on the Microsoft front, CEO Steve Ballmer addressed a large audience of IT professionals at last week's in Orlando, Fla., about security concerns about the Windows platform as well as the company's plans for its next-generation client and server version of Windows, called Longhorn.

    He said a "Longhorn wave" is headed our way, with some parts arriving sooner and others later. And others even much later.

    Click here to read more about Ballmer's Gartner keynote.

    A year ago at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference, company officials detailed the many new features—some 700 or more—due for Longhorn and reaffirmed its schedule, albeit years in the future. Developers were handed a CD with a technical preview.

    That plan became hash over the course of the next 12 months, and the entire project was reorganized to become a "wave" rollout rather than the previous tsunami strategy. Rather than acknowledging a development and marketing failure, Ballmer would have us believe that this change (what some call "Shorthorn") is a good thing. And that's likely so given the raw state of the components.

    To be honest, Microsoft should find a new name for its upcoming releases of Windows, since "Longhorn" is now a misnomer. The Longhorn project has had so many facelifts over the past year or two, it's difficult to recognize.

    Also evident at the Gartner event was the confidence gap between customer expectations on security and the marketing messages delivered by Microsoft executives.

    "We've learned more about security than anyone else in the world," Ballmer said at ITxpo last week. "We need to focus in on a few things. We need to engineer in fewer vulnerabilities going forward. We have new development tools to spot security vulnerabilities. We will release those to users."

    A "few" things? Who is Ballmer kidding? Nobody.

    "Trust is not a word that I would use" in relation to Microsoft's promises on security, one developer said following the keynote address, adding that she had no reason to trust Microsoft because it "hasn't delivered anything to date" to improve the condition of security.

    The condition of Windows security is a joke, or it would be one if the issue didn't cost every user on the Internet and impact the workflow of every IT manager in large and small enterprises every single day. Or as revealed last week, cause PC makers to try to improve things on their own with a third-party security software bundle.

    So, how can these companies regain our trust? Simple: Tell us what will be done and when. And then do it.

    Of course, that's the toughest part.

    Check out eWEEK.com's Desktop & Notebook Center at http://desktop.eweek.com for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.

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    David Morgenstern is Executive Editor/Special Projects of eWEEK. Previously, he served as the news editor of Ziff Davis Internet and editor for Ziff Davis' Storage Supersite.

    In 'the days,' he was an award-winning editor with the heralded MacWEEK newsweekly as well as eMediaweekly, a trade publication for managers of professional digital content creation.

    David has also worked on the vendor side of the industry, including companies offering professional displays and color-calibration technology, and Internet video.

    He can be reached here.

     
     
     
     
     
























     
     
     
     
     
     

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