Is Intel doing anything at all novel here?

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From: Dan Kohn (
Date: Wed Feb 16 2000 - 23:50:07 PST

Seeking common standard for Net
Intel: It teams up with heavyweights on seamless framework.
Mercury News Staff Writer

PALM SPRINGS -- Intel Corp., which led efforts to standardize the design of
the personal computer, now hopes to establish similar standards for handling
Internet commerce.

Just as hypertext markup language (HTML) provides a common interface for the
current Web, Intel hopes to cobble together an industry alliance to support
common software standards for the next generation of the Internet -- one
better designed for handling the billions of dollars of transactions that
are quickly becoming the main use of the Web.

``Right now, if you connect to the Internet, it's really a point-to-point
connection,'' said Paul Otellini, Intel executive vice president and general
manager of the Business Architecture Group. ``A user can connect to E*Trade
and then he can connect to Quicken or Wells Fargo. Why not make it so that
he can handle all of those transactions at once?''

``To do that,'' he added, ``we need a new way of communicating across the
Internet, a new lingua franca.''

Intel is labeling its initiative ``Third Generation Internet Business,'' and
the Santa Clara-based chip maker has already signed up such industry
heavyweights as Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp.,
Hewlett-Packard Co., Cisco Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp. as supporters.

In fact, virtually every major technology company with a stake in the
Internet is announcing at least token support for the project, except one:
Sun Microsystems Inc. Sun is promoting its Java language as a universal
language for Web language.

Intel's motivation in promoting Net standards is simple: to sell more chips.
If the Internet continues to grow at its current rate, Intel predicts that
computing power will have to grow 20-fold within four years to handle the

``This is really a call to action rather than a specific proposal,''
Otellini said. ``Right now, everything is dependent on what someone at the
end of the line is using. We want to make it so that anyone can do business
with anyone, no matter where they are and what they are doing.''

The amount of business transacted over the Web in the United States is
already estimated to be 1 percent of the country's gross domestic product,
and Intel expects that figure to grow to 10 percent within the next few

Business-to-business e-commerce alone is expected to grow from $400 billion
in 1999 to more than $7 trillion within four years, said Andy Grove, Intel's
chairman. More important, ``I think the Internet will have a revolutionary
impact on the way business is done,'' Grove noted. ``It will change

Fostering change

To foster that change, Intel is hoping to create industrywide support for a
single framework that could be used to let consumers and businesses collect
and sort data and transfer information and funds across the Internet without
having to worry about what the underlying technology is at the other end of
the line.

To do that, the Internet will need to be enhanced significantly, adding
better security, more privacy and the ability to simultaneously link
customers, suppliers and companies.

The main thrust of Intel's proposal is business-to-business transactions.

Many companies have already established electronic transaction systems off
the Net, and they are now trying to move those programs to the Web for easy
access by customers and suppliers.

The new language underlying the Intel initiative is extensible markup
language (XML) -- an extended version of HTML that allows programmers much
more flexibility in creating Web pages.

Intel will also be opening more than 30 development centers worldwide to
help software developers create applications that will support the
framework, and Intel has created a $150 million development fund to help
software companies add those capabilities to their products.

Roger Kay, a research manager for International Data Corp., a Framingham,
Mass., market research firm, said Intel's idea has potential.

``It lets everyone become the center of their own little universe,'' he
said. ``They can create their own specific way of handling transactions over
the Internet.''

But in order for that model to work, Kay added, it needs to be almost
universally supported -- not just by hardware manufacturers and software
developers, but also by industries that already have their own unique
methods of handling data.

Framework unclear

But exactly what the framework for this enhanced Internet will be is still

Except for supporting XML as the new language of the Internet and getting
its partners to pledge to making sure their technologies will work across a
wide variety of platforms, details of Intel's plan are still vague.

Intel is not the first to recognize the need for a more robust framework for
the Internet if e-commerce is going to take off as expected. A number of
Internet companies already use tracking agents -- known as bots -- to gather
information from multiple sites.

HP has also been promoting a broad-based approach to integrating multiple
sites over the Internet with its vision of ``e-speak,'' a sort of translator
to link Internet devices and Web sites. And IBM and Microsoft have been
promoting their own technologies.

However, the clearest rival to Intel's consortium is Sun's Java platform,
which is already used by many Web developers for high-end Web programming.

Java has lost some key industry support recently as Sun feuds with other
companies over just how open Java is.

Sun currently is in the midst of a protracted legal battle with Microsoft
over what Sun claims is a ``polluted'' version of Java designed to work
better with Windows than anything else.

At the same time, IBM, Sun's closest ally in developing the Java platform,
is publicly fighting with the Mountain View-based company over Sun's refusal
to relinquish control over the platform.

Intel didn't even invite Sun to join the new initiative, underscoring a
growing rift between the two companies. ``Given Sun's business model it just
didn't make sense,'' Otellini said. ``Now it's 96 percent of the computer
industry against 4 percent.''

Sun said it needs to hear more about the Intel-led initiative to see if it
truly can compete with its Java technology.


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