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Microsoft

Microsoft Making Internet Appliance Chips 140

M$ Mole writes: "According to CNN, Microsoft is now developing their own chips for WebTV and other new internet appliances. The article is lacking in terms of technical details of the chips, but does bring up a good question of: What does this do to the Wintel relationship?" The idea of Microsoft making chips will raise a lot of eyebrows ceiling high, but it sounds like a fairly modest endeavor thus far, not MS jumping into the ring with AMD, Motorola, Intel, or even with the smaller X86 makers. As M$ Mole and the article say, it's about chips for appliances -- for now.
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Microsoft Making Internet Appliance Chips

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  • You stick in the toast. You hit the lever down. After about 30 seconds, the "crash" sound from your toaster's selected theme sounds off indication that "I do not to alarm you or give you unpleasant feelings but something 'bad' just happened. 'C'lose or 'D'etails'?" Curious, you hit 'D' to see why the Microsoft Toaster had problems. It starts to dump an uninteligable gooy mess not unlike strawberry jam. Meanwhile, the bread is burning away stuck in its current state. You hit 'C' before something is really damaged or catches on fire which causes a cascade of 'Close or Details?' dialogs to pop up before finally getting to the point where it can turn itself off. So you have a charred piece of former bread stuck in your Microsoft Toaster with smoke pouring out of it and still there is nothing to eat.

    Oh wait...you said "internet appliance"!
  • > It's really not a big deal to make your own chip.

    Vision of the 21st Century: Vanity Chips.

    --
  • Ok, here is how I see this M$ development:
    First: they steal the code and call it their OS;
    Second: they steal another idea and call it their GUI;
    Third: they steal some more code and call it their browser;
    Fourth: they pick up on an idea and call it their internet;
    Fifth: they buy all kinds of software-companies and call it their 'innovations';
    Sixth: they bully/squeeze/sue all rivals from the market and call it their extend & embrace policy for your good;
    Seventh: they FUD and spam on other products and call it their idea of a "Good Thing" (TM);
    Eighth: they seek "World Domination"(TM) and call it their idea;
    etc. etc. etc.

    Now that they have come up with the "innovation" to start on hardware as well as software they (and their peers like Sony, MPAA, etc. etc. etc.) can really start to overtake the majority of business and home computing.
    With the control over hardware and software they can sell 'blocking/filtering/firewall' services to companies that for example want to kill, crush and destroy the rights of the "consumer" like they are trying now with the DMCA, Napster, et al.

    Is it me or does Steve B. look like "The Man"(TM) on the screen in the movie "1984" ?

    NOW is the time we should be worried. After all, Linux still has a minor percentage of desktop presence and WINxyz is by far the most pushed/shoved/pre-installed software.
    Does anyone have a clue how to prevent the "1984" scenario coming to *y*o*u*r* office and home? There is much animosity here on /. but "The Real World"(TM) does not care much for charged/uncharged particles that have an half-life of 60 nanoseconds.

    What I want to know is: How do we stop them and what is being done already ?

    Living in Europe does free me of some U.S.of A. issues, but the ramifications are obvious to us all the same. Some legislation may cross the Atlantic and contaminate our rights as well!

    {squawk} Polly want a Cookie!

    ---
  • Now M$ can't blame broken hardware for the bluescreens. :>
  • Lots of this is solvable with current technology, for pretty reasonable amounts of money.

    MP3 Player? This is just a PC. You can pick up a P150 system for next to nothing. Alarm clock/radio? Same box. The problem is that the output device gets kind of expensive (IE, flat panel.) So there's definitely some work that needs to be done there.

    As for house controls, all of this can be handled via X10, which is fairly inexpensive. Lights, Heat, AC, Blinds, Appliances, et cetera; All X10 controllable. A starter X10 kit will run you between $6 and $25 for a remote, a serial port widget, a transceiver module with appliance control, and a light dimmer module.

    The car is really the tricky part. This is something I've been thinking about for some time, though. The problem is that I don't think that there really exists a good backlit daylight viewable color screen. All the rest of it's pretty trivial.

    Your friend already had the door with intercom tied into his computer, so obviously this can be done reasonably well.

  • all of this can be handled via X10, which is fairly inexpensive

    ...unless you live in the UK, where it costs an absolute fortune...

    anyway I was looking into getting some X10 stuff for when we go on holiday, so the inlaws don't have to come over and draw the curtains all the time. The protocol is really only designed for use with a remote control, or a switch, where you are present at the time. There is no way of checking that your commands are correctly received by a device, or querying the state of a device. One burst of noise over your mains when your PC is trying to shut the curtains, and for the rest of your holiday the curtains will be shut all day and open at night ;) Or something like that.

    If I could find devices using a better protocol with some ACKs and NACKs in there somewhere, I'd be a lot happier about internetting my house with them. In particular I _really_ want to be emailed when my burglar alarm goes off so I can have a look at my house web cam and if necessary phone the police. I also want central locking for my house, including my shed and my back gate. And I want to be able to turn on my oven when I'm leaving work.

    $ cat houselog

    24.8.00
    07:00 Preprogrammed request
    Curtains open
    11:23 Movement detected at front gate
    Gardencam on
    Radio on
    11:24 Doorbell rung
    HARRI alerted
    20:43 Dusk detected
    Curtains shut, lights on
    21:00 Preprogrammed request
    Hot water on, oven on, front door light on
    21:15 Householder return
    House to manual control

    $

  • With the current state of EDA tools for NT/2k (really weak, bugridden, not well supported) does anyone think that this chip design is being done on NT boxes?

    It would be a nice coup for Solaris/HP/Linux if it came out that M$ used something else for their own chip design.
  • Bottom line is microsoft controls 90% of the OS Market. Period. They're moving into the server space where they were unheard of before and laughed at, but now even BUY.com is a MS site.

    SUN / IBM etc. are hanging in there, some even doing quite well as the need for servers has grown exponentially and they can sell reliable scalable solutions. But even in IBMs case we pay MS to put there software on our machines to sell, but used to compete (OS2) It will be interesting to see how MS does in the enterprise.

    The only ones who have beeten MS are Palm and AOL. But notice that MS never gives up and MSN and new versions of CE are here..

    Windows NT used to be called windows Nice Try, now its still sucks but its much better.
  • As technology gets more advanced, simple technology gets cheaper. At some point, your microwave will have a Pentium-class CPU in it, because it will be cheaper than custom logic. So at some point, your washing machine may run linux, with applications developed in java (or some successor to it... chai, anyone?) just because it's easier that way, and people are used to it.

  • > Q:Can we lock in users on the hardware level?
    > A:I guess so. We have nothing to loose.

    The evil empire drops a silicon curtain between
    its customers and the free world. They control
    the TV content, they control the net access,
    they sanitize the mail and mediate transactions.
    It's for your own good. Dissent is treason.
  • Redmond, WA (FOO) Microsoft, manufacturer of bloated proprietary operating systems and desktop software, plans to formally announce the invention of a new device. Claimed as a revolutionary new method of taking people "Where they want to go today," anonymous sources describe it as chiseled out of a chunk of silicon, in a round shape, with a carbon (wood) pole through the center.

    Industry observers had this to say: "Once they get this thing rolling, everything will go downhill rapidly." Expected to be another proprietary product of the software giant, it's an unusual venture into the field of hardware. "This will demonstrate our engineering prowess," said another club-toting anonymous source, clad in a bearskin.

    Others claim this has already been done long ago and that there are already existing ways to produce this same item, many of which are free. Company President and CEO, Steve Ballmer had this to say, "Ugh, wheel good! Ugh, innovation!"

    On slashdot.org an extremely embarassing corporate profile was linked [microsoft.com], detailing how Microsoft was again late to the table with dirty hands. When questioned on this, Ballmer replied, "Oot!"

    Vote [dragonswest.com] Naked 2000

  • The O/S requires the chip, the chip requires the O/S. Seems like one way to try to block Linux out of their markets.
  • Not much detail about the kind of chips they are
    planning to make. I think whether this impacts
    their relationship with Intel will depend a lot
    on the features these chips have.

    It seems more than unlikely that someone without
    their own manufacturing plants would consider
    to go into the processor business - you need
    to be very close to the technology. Transmeta
    seems to be the only exception, and it's not
    like they are shipping vast numbers.

    Microsoft would have enough money to get into
    this market, but it would be a major effort.

    Designing some chips e.g. for TCP/IP routing and
    the like is a completely different matter.
    That wouldn't impact their relationship with Intel
    either.

    Of course no chips have actually been made yet,
    and knowing Microsoft there is no guarantee
    they will ever be made.
  • this has got to be about the worst idea ever. At least right now I'm pretty sure microsoft won't be able to cause damage outside my computer because they didn't make it the electronic controls

    An appliance from microsoft would be one of the most frightening things I can think of. Right out of some b-movie horror. Maybe it will secretly print ads folded into paper airplanes and shoot them across the house. Or maybe oscillating voltage drains to destroy non-MS-complaint appliances on the same circuit. I can just imagine a microwave with ad banners, that only works if you took the fridge from an MS refrigerator of the same generation.

    Okay, I know they really mean web appliances, not household appliances (YET!) but that's scary too. The only reason to use such a thing (unless it's really cheap) is for the increased reliability and decreased maintenance of a wellbuilt firmware solution - and if there is anything MS can't do well it's firmware.

    The really, really evil thing about MS is that everyone in the world now expects computers to not just be usually somewhat confusing, but also to be unpredictable irrational and unstable. Having to reboot all the time makes people hate computers, and is constantly increasing the ranks of the technophobes, when computers have been swift enough for quite a while now that they shouldn't have this kind of problem!

    *sigh*

    *sigh*
  • You realize, of course, that the only way that Microsoft can make a Linux system as unstable as its own is by incorporating the BSOD into hardware.
  • Microsoft is back to making hardware. (Who has a Z80 card that works in the Apple ]]+?) And, to reduce costs, they want to roll as much as they can into once chip.

    Less interconnects, lower price.

    Plus, if they are going to make the X box, why not make production mistakes on the webTV box? This is a learning experience for them, and they will need all the learning they can get before they start making X boxes.

    I don't see it as scary. Bill wants to make the weTV hardware as cheap as they can.

    Alas, I can't find the links, but 2 years ago there was limited press about a (polish? chech?) firm that was partnered with Microsoft and the wording of the press release was that M$ was actually BRANDING the hardware...yes you got a Microsoft computer, instead of a Dell/HP/Compaq/whatever box that had Microsoft on it. Perhaps someone that knows what Micro$oft is doing outside the US boarders has a link or 2.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:20AM (#833015) Journal

    ...not to invest in software companies. Why? Two words: Free Software.

    Free Software is great for hardware companies. It sucks for most software companies. RedHat will never pull in the dough like MS did.

    Now, MS is one of the few software companies with the $$$ and wherewithall to transform intself into a hardware company via initiatives such as this, the X-box, and their various PDA efforts.

    A lot of other software companies are just going to go *poof*.

  • by anticypher ( 48312 ) <anticypher@gm a i l .com> on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:22AM (#833016) Homepage
    So M$ is building a custom chip to keep the hardware costs down on their low-cost internet appliance. There is a slightly better version of the story on the Mercury News [sjmercury.com].

    Lots of companies do this when the cost of assembling a bunch of separate components gets to be too expensive. If you know you have a large market, it is cheaper in the long run to invest in designing a custom chip to perform a single function. It eliminates all the overhead cruft of general purpose computers like the intel architecture. In simple economics terms, this is the easy answer.

    For those with a suspicious bent towards anything M$ does, it could be a slap at intel or a first step towards creating a computing platform where competitors can't run. They could be trying to make a system with integrated audio/video streams which will only play a proprietary format which M$ controls, and since the codec is in hardware, no competitor could weasel its way onto the box and steal some content marketshare. Your call.

    It'll be interesting if these new boxes turn out like closed architectures, like gaming consoles. Why does that sound like a challenge to figure a way to install Linux? :-)

    the AC
  • by Money__ ( 87045 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:23AM (#833017)
    Q:Can we out FUD Palm?
    A:Nope. Tried that.

    Q:Can we out market Palm?
    A:Nope. Tried that.

    Q:Can we lock in users on the apps level?
    A:Nope. Tried that.

    Q:Can we lock in users on the OS level?
    A:Nope Tried that.

    Q:Can we lock in users on the hardware level?
    A:I guess so. We have nothing to loose.

    Q:How about giving the customer a better product?

    A:Blank stare . . . [laughter]

  • I suppose that would lead to the nickname of "Chewy chips", which would then invariably lead to loading dock workers shouting, "Chewy Chips Ahoy!" when there was a shipment coming in.
  • How am I going to put a 100MB ServicePack on that chip???
  • Didn't phrase this very well, I guess.

    Yes if you had a fab plant, that would be feasible. And yes you can design *a* CPU, that's actually rather trivial, but that's not a CPU which could compete with Intel. To compete with these guys you need to design a 1 GHz CPU and manufacture it, too. The design, well they may be able to pull that of, but manufacturing? There are only a handful people who could do that. They'd need an alliance with one of those - just like Transmeta.
  • Great, now Mircosoft will make hardware will all of the quality, reliability, and openness that we have come to expect from them. Er... :-/
  • I agree that X10 is not an ideal system. Ideally you would have something where all the devices could in fact talk back to you and let you know what was going on. Any request would then be followed up for a request for state. If the state was incorrect, it would retry some number of times...

    However, a burst of noise won't make it act weird, most likely; It should just make it not act at all. And since X10's signals are fairly long/slow/wide (take your pick of terminology) the odds are that any noise on the power line will not affect your X10 signal.

  • "Think about the sonystation vs. the MS Xbox. Sony is still paying microsoft for windows while competeing with them in the console space."

    Dude, what the HELL are you talking about? Are you tanked? I'm assuming you mean the Sony Playstation or Playstation 2, neither of which run anything like Windows... and if not, WTF is a "sonystation?"
  • ...by entering a new market, Microsoft is now a competitor. After a while in the Internet Appliance Chip market, they 'suddenly realize' that they have all this manufacturing capability, and decide that making PC CPUs, motherboards, etc. would be an interesting market. The result is the follow BSOD:

    Your Microsoft{tm} Motherboard has detected a virus attempting to load itself into system memory. The process in question, Red_Hat_Linux_v6.2, will be terminated immediately.
    If you have any information which could be useful to Microsoft in its attempt to sue the individual or individuals responsible for distribution of this virus, such as the name of a store not complying with the Microsoft's voluntary "WIN-only or Die" sales promotion, please contact us immediately by sending email to theman@microsoft.com


    88
  • so if I have an ms chipped toaster and I use unapproved linux-brand bread, will they remotely disable my toaster?
  • Talisman was a great idea at the time - the use of impostors in hardware meant much better image quality when you only had a few polygons to play with. However, just as they were getting to a state where they could really start getting Talisman going, several new graphics gards manufacturers bought out cards (3dfx Vooodoo, PowerVR, Riva 128...) an order of magnitude more powerful than most of the cards that had preceeded them. Suddenly the cunning Talisman approach couldn't compete with the brute force bandwidth and fillrate offered by these cards, and had to be dropped.

    However, the use of impostors is not dead. Elixir's 'Republic' has quite an interesting graphics engine that appears to use impostors quite convincingly. I'm less convinced that it'll have any decent gameplay, though...
  • by gupg ( 58086 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:01AM (#833027) Homepage
    Here is the complete article [sjmercury.com] at San Jose Mercury's site.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:01AM (#833028)
    Microsoft is now developing their own chips for WebTV

    That would be... potato chips.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...if that name is an indication of what Microsoft thinks they are doing to their relationship with Intel - going solo?

    But unlike the desktop, the embedded chip market has never been Intel's private playground. Embedded is much more wide open. Microsoft won't own it either.

    Microsoft will either not make much money on the chips but sell some boxes, or else make good money on the chips but not sell many boxes because the price is too high for them to be competitive.

    Also, Microsoft will either spend a lot of money to get slightly different functionality than existing chips, or they will spend a lot of money to get just the same functionality as existing chips. Either way, they will probably decide in the end that it wasn't worth it. (Don't bet your career on this chip.)

    By the way, any word on what instruction set it will run?

    AC because I'm lazy...

  • As we all know when one builds these types of chips you have to choose your OS very carefully.

    Depending on the exact nature of the chip many companies choose PalmOS ( a good, small, low-power OS), a few companies choose WinCE (or whatever that waste of bytes is called now), many (or at least some) companies choose to create a Linux-derivative, and many create a new OS (which usually fails).

    To me this symbolizes the place where a court-ordered break-up would actually help Microsoft. If the chip making part of the company was not tied to the OS making part they would be free to choose any of the above solutions. But as it currently is they could only choose one (and it is not a good one).

    I've always felt that Microsoft made very good hardware. Whenever I rant about their faults it is only in relation to the software, if it were to become possible to seperate the company into 3 (MicrOS, Microsoft, and Microhard, Look I even gave them names all of the hard work is done) then we could get some good products and a seperate crappy OS.

    Devil Ducky
  • From scanning the articles briefly, I'd have to guess that Microsoft won't be manufacturing these chips, but that a Microsoft subsidiary designed a chip and they'll probably have to contract out to manufacture them. It's not an enormous distinction, but it is an important one...
  • by barracg8 ( 61682 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:24AM (#833032)
    The register [theregister.co.uk] has an interesting article [theregister.co.uk] about this.

    Particularly, a couple of quotes from Intel about this:

    • "I think Intel's reputation as a chip company is better than Microsoft's, and you can take it from there."

      - Ron Smith, a senior VP at Intel's wireless division in Santa Clara

    • "I have no problem competing with Microsoft."

      - Mark Christiansen, Intel's senior VP in charge of its IXA project

    This may also answer Hemos' question [slashdot.org], about why is Intel demoing Linux failover.

    You sell chips: we push other operating systems.

  • by mholve ( 1101 )
    How do you Service Pack a chip? ;>
  • a fab plant costs less to M$ than to most other companies. they could build a couple of dozen without even impacting their bottom line. whether you design a chip for a router or a P-III, a chip is a chip. same VLSI design principles, same masks, same methods. anyone who can design a router chip can design a P-III..the only thing different is higher density and more complexity. if M$ can build a system as huge as windoze they can surely build a processor ..just throw enough hardware guys at the problem. and we all know M$ has enough money to afford that.
  • by Blitter ( 15795 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:27AM (#833035)
    About four years ago the Soft tried to make a revolutionary graphics leap forward with the Talisman chip [microsoft.com]. It was actually a pretty cool design. And like this new chip, Talisman could "take it to the next level", something MS felt it needed to do to make Windows a competitive game platform. It failed for a number of reasons. One of them was the complexity level was higher than any of their fab partners were used to dealing with. Another was that other graphics chip manufacturers became scared to talk to them -- they didn't really want to support Talisman, but felt they needed to get Direct3D support for their chips, and Direct3D and Talisman capabilities were getting intertwined inside MS. The result was a giant mess, and it was finally dropped. My point is that MS doesn't have a very good track record with this sort of thing. Not predicting doom, but I see some similarities between the two.
  • I know it sounds petty, but are they trying to force out Transmeta, seeing as how Crusoe is supposed to be focusing on low-power applications like laptops and internet appliances?

  • Free Software is great for hardware companies. It sucks for most software companies. RedHat will never pull in the dough like MS did.

    Well, free software can be just as bad for the hardware companies. GNU/Linux running on top of an Alpha or a PowerPPC looks much the same as GNU/Linux running on top of an x86. It's pretty easy to port things once the compiler is done. That makes it a commodity market for chips too.

  • With all the vapour floating out of Redmond these days, shouldn't naked flames be banned within a five-mile radius.
  • Those stupid things have been around a while. At least ten years in LA, where we have a drainage problem instead of a water shortage. Jump on the bandwagon stupid if you ask me. I'm going to just have to make my own tank when the day comes.

    Plumbing stuff is so easy to thwart. Need a real shower? Buy a crapy water saver model and drill out the water saver, usually made of brass or plastic and can be drilled by hand if need be. Your shower will no longer resemble a mister or a girl urinating on you, and you will become clean. As for tanks, how hard could it be to build a bigger box?

    The microsoft model, however will be ten times bigger, three times slower, and their chip will burn 80 watts. The extra gizmos include:a message box that flashes every time you put in a non-MS toilet paper, "Warning, Non MS TP 0x240:0a, will not flush properly", a seat that always opens with MSIE 5.0, and a music system that only plays wav files. Hell may freeze over before it finishes, but it will keep you warm in winter!

  • You've just explained about 3 of the reasons why the ASP model will never be accepted by corporations.

    The ASP idea isn't exactly new. We've been leasing our Mainframe services for years now. However it's a bit different because it is not a tremendous effort to drop the service, take your tapes and restore them to a new Mainframe leasing company.

    The difference was we were just leasing hardware space and ran our own applications and data. Call it a web service provider, I guess in the mainframe vintage.

    After all the web is just mainframe with pretty graphics.
  • They're using Toshiba for the actual silicon, although Tos may be going to some fab house. One way or another, Microsoft isn't buying a fab house.
  • If I were a software house and I wanted to make chips I just don't code more and have chips fall out. You need wafer fabs, polishers, furnaces, etc... It's not easy to just stand up and go "I think I will make ICs today." So my question is where the heck do they think they are going to just start making ICs? Redmond? Are they going to have a German Plant like AMD?

    Unless they carve them out of wood - which wouldn't be too surprising - they don't appear to have the talent pool to draw from for design or production.
  • Only problem that work against M$ is that originally MS brought webtv to keep it out of the market. WebTV had alot of discount special before the buy out, after that you can't even notice webtv in electronic store.

    After so many year, it has lost alot of momentum. It just do't matter anymore, now that i-opener is so cheap.

  • One of the few errors when you buy a MS compliant Toaster from Fry's for 159$.

    Whats next ? Vibrators with MS chip enabled within ? hmmm...interesting. I dont think they would come in large sizes and I presume they would either self destruct or deflate since they were made by "MICRO" "SOFT" :)

    My two cents..
  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:35AM (#833045) Homepage Journal
    No, you don't need your current appliances networked, but you will want your new appliances to be networked.

    I have ReplayTV. I want it networked so that I can log into it from work and see what's recording, delete stuff I don't want, record shows that I forgot to ask it to record, and such. When I watch TV, I want to be able to call up the IMDB page for the movie I just watched.

    I want to have my MP3 player networked.

    I want my alarm clock/radio to also play MP3s, so I want it networked.

    I would like a lot of my house controls (lights, heat, AC, and such) computerized and networked. So I went on vacation and forgot to turn off the AC? I can log in and stop wasting electricity, and program it to be cool again just before I get home.

    I would love to have my car networked. It could search for low gas prices on my intended route when the tank gets low. It could report its location if it gets stolen. Obviously, it could download MP3s for the stereo.

    I would like to have my doorbell networked. I have a friend that has a doorbell with an intercom, along with a web cam all computerized. Someone can ring the doorbell when he is at work. He can answer on the intercom and look at the person at the door, making them think he's home but can't come to the door.

    Ten years ago most people didn't think they needed their computers networked. All it takes is a little imagination. Sure, the value-add may not be that huge at first, but others will imagine a little more, and soon we'll wonder how we ever got by without having everything online.
  • There is no way M$ could produce the silicon in-house; this will be farmed out to an ASIC producer or something.

    They could wire a 1Mhz square wave into the HALT line to make it run just like Windows. Heck, just tie it low...

  • There's nothing illegal about having a monopoly, but it's illegal to try to leverage a monopoly in one field to attempt to gain a monopoly in another.

    Since there has already been a court decision that they have a monopoly, they had better be very careful about this sort of thing.

    If they have any slight special preferential treatment between their software and hardware, it will almost certainly have disastrous consequences.

    ---
    Despite rumors to the contrary, I am not a turnip.
  • Microsoft makes some pretty sweet hardware, it's just their software that sucks so far. Easily the best mouses* I've bought are MS, and they last years on end, are more ergonomic than others (excluding Logitech,) and the IntelliEye is pretty sweet.

    They make some nice game controllers too.

    I call it "the 3dfx sickness," because IMHO, 3dfx makes some sweet hardware. It just takes them years before the drivers catch up to that hardware. (I got a Voodoo 3 3500, and I'm still waiting...)

    * I say "mice" if I'm talking about the creature; the same way I say "virii" if talking about the programs.
  • I am thoroughly surprised noone has noticed the obvious: the only relevant market where Windows is -not- (yet) a standard is the IA. (not counting the handheld, ultralight stuff where PalmOS rules).
    Many companies, expecially various Linux companies, and Be inc. are therefore betting on the IA market, where competition is still possible. "Not so!" (sez Mickeysoft) They want that market, too, and did what I think is obvious: make PROPRIETARY HARDWARE whos specs only MS will know, and therefore, only Windows-supported.

    With the $5 billion bribe to AT&T, to sell 5 million WebTVs to their customers (you remember this, right? don't let me dig the url... me lazy) and other similar spins, Mickeysoft is -really serious- about the IA market.

    Oh, and just a little rant, please disregard: F*CCCKKKK Mickeysoft!!!!!!

  • is perusing all the rest of the user comments and seeing how many conspiracy theories arise. C'mon, kids... See, it works like this: Microsoft bought WebTV. Since before the purchase, WebTV has contracted to manufacture the chips. Microsoft, seeing that it has a few spare billion just laying around and doing nothing, decides to create a new division of its business to cut out the middleman. It's done here in Detroit all the time when second- and third-tier suppliers get too much money in their pockets. Be worried when Microsoft announces the new 50-InfiHertz(tm) Bloatanium chip w/o backward compatibility with the i386 family, then announce that they will optimize Winduhz 2-gazillion to run on the Bloatanium specifically, thus phasing out the i386 line of hardware. Besides, isn't this what we want them to do? As long as Intel, AMD and IBM keep cranking out excellent technology and people keep porting Linux to it, we won't have to worry about Microsoft and the Bloatanium and Winduhz, will we?
  • The last thing I need in the morning is to wake up and find out my new MStoaster has been hacked and someone burned the toast.

  • Microsoft doesn't need to answer any threat from Crusoe, because they aren't being threatened. Aren't some Crusoes even optimized for Windows?

  • Why is it that so many make this mistake? loose versus lose If my belt is too loose my pants may be around my ankles, in which case I would lose my dignity. [;)
  • Whats the possability that gates has taken a liking to the borg/gates img used here on slashdot and is attempting to make chips for implants?
  • This is great! If their chips are anything like their operating systems.... they'll suck.

    Maybe they'll become rivals for Intel in the Great Vaporware Chip Race (tm).

    (please proceed to mod me into the ground. Thanks.)
  • Microsoft have planned this for a while now in my opinion, and it is the best time for them to move into the chip industry. Since intel still lack the support of windows 2000 on their 64 bit platform (which they need), they dont have any choice but let microsoft taking a piece of share in the microprocessors market.

    Mike
  • I don't think this is very innocent at all. When a company makes the step into complex IC manufacture, that is always a very big jump and large capital investment for them. I think that if M$ have gone this far, they're not really going to stop there.

    Also I don't really like the sound of the OS maker manufacturing the processors too: how long will it be until the processors themselves come with a small bit of the windoze/dos code on them in ROM.

    "The system has not detected a FAT32 partition on the disk controller. Nice try, sucker. Press any key to retry..."

    And we all know how bad M$ is at releasing ANY code to the community. At least with Intel, we get chip specifications for development. I can't see microsoft having those specs in a nice handy .pdf document on their website, do you?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Make some pens. Bic got the message.
  • MS starts off saying how creative they are, saying that the big processor houses wouldn't have thought of such a chip five years ago. Well, maybe not quite as integrated as such devices are being done today, but not all that far away "back then".

    Motorola came out with the MPC821 a few years ago, with LCD driver build in, then the MPC823 with LCD/VGA support on the chip. Plus 10Base and USB ports, a couple of simple serial and I2C And SPI for controlling any peripherals you needed to. Oh, and it could talk to a framer to get T1/E1/ADSL. Not the fastest, at 40-80 MIPS, but maybe enough for settops, toasters, and microwave ovens.

    It certainly seems as if this is a attempt to handle both the DoJ and inroads for compeating operating systems. The MS marketing machine certainly will make this impressive to some consumers.

    Too bad open source RTOSes such as RTEMS haven't gotten much attention. They beat WinCE hands down, be it memory footprint, performance, or ease of use. And they are true hard real time OSes, not the MS "well, just use a faster processor and maybe it'll be quick enough" sort-of-real-time-OS.

  • Good question! I was merely creating a farce on the product OF which is being discussed. Therefore my post was NOT offtopic NOR was it flaimbait. Sheesh. Sometimes I really have to question this system.




    -*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*
  • by westfirst ( 222247 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:44AM (#833061)
    WebTV has been designing custom chips from the beginning. The founders are old hardware jocks (Perlman and Leak) who did great things at Apple with their cool video TV systems. They were the first that made it possible to watch TV on your mac in a window AND drag that window around. It was way cool at the time. They took this expertise and developed the custom chips for WebTV.

    Since then, they've done many revs. Sure Microsoft bought them several years ago, but designing new chips is not new.

  • Gotta love the intro to that story, Reinvention: Company tries to move beyond software for PCs with services for Web, interactive television

    Apparently software for PCs hasn't been going very well for them. Couldn't have anything to do with a bad product, could it?

    "You'll die up there son, just like I did!" - Abe Simpson
  • Considering the situation on the component market (with allocation etc.) then Microsoft could have a second reason for not being able to deliver in time.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You know as soon as these things hit the street, some smart alec is gonna port Linux to it. And BSD. And... well, you know that story.
    As much as I'd like to see M$ once again pour money down another "Bob" rathole, I think the free software guys are going to shoot themselves in the foot on this one.
  • ... this makes Microsoft a blue-chip-of-death company!!! Mixing too many puns, I know...
  • If this is how you feel about Microsoft and Windows, then I'd like to know what your feelings on Sun and Java and their MAJC (Microprocessor Architecture for Java Computing; see http://arstechnica.com/cpu/4q99/majc/majc-1.html for details). Seems to me like all you M$ haters out there that are getting in bed with Sun really are hypocrites after all.

    (I know this is a repost, but this time I bothered to login so y'all could see it).

  • named after Solo, WebTV founder Steve Perlman's dog

    I think not! I bet instead it was Lucas calling up Gates and saying "Hans off!"

    --
  • With their ongoing legal woes, Microsoft should've named it the nolo [nolo.com] chip.
  • We're now one step closer to the Blue Toast of Death (BTOD).

    Dennis
  • So what is your point?

    Sun has been designing their own chips since the Sun 3. They have designed a neat new processor (ps. anyone else - it really is neat, check out that link [arstechnica.com]). The MAJC processor is in no way tied to running Java code. It is just a neat way at getting hardware to support multi-threading better.

    But let's judge Sun on their history. Look at Sun's history with chip production. Look at the bios they use: OpenFirmware [openfirmware.com]. Look how they have spun control of the sparc architecture off into Sparc International [sparc.com], to make it a truely open platform.

    Then look at MicroSoft's track record. Do you doubt that M$ will be trying to gain monopoly control over WebTV devices, in the same way they have captured the desktop market?

    I really don't see any point in your comparison.

    cheers,
    G

  • As it turns out, someone was actually ringing his doorbell from a network.:).

    Overall, nice comments. Dedicated appliances IMO have their place though. I really just consider TIVO to be a dedicated web browser for TV shows. (.. well maybe its a little more than that. ) To me, the concept behind dedicated appliances is for usability.

    Perhaps you *can* make a PC that works as a MP3 player, alarm clock, intercom, email, Video recorder AND have it easy to use. But then what happens as more functions come in? Immediately usability is affected. It's impossible to have a universal device that's always easy to use. Or... what happens if your HD crashes? You lose everything.
  • I'm sick and tired of seeing AlphaLinux running only on Alpha chips, why can't those crazy busters get a clue and start porting their code to other chipsets? Theres lots of us out here that are dying to see AlphaLinux released for the x86 and PPC.
    I hope people stop developing the Netwinder so no one has to worry about set-top user friendly computers anymore. The last thing we need isa departure from hastily built caseless POS Linux boxes. I don't know what i would do without my space heater often confused for a file server. While we're at killing off simplicty, why the fuck are you still using X, you don't need a GUI you pussy. Web-TV is stupid because it has a Microsoft logo, I hate it with a passion. It really gets your point across when you scold a computer neophyte because they like the Windows Start button and cute sounds when they click things. Kick a puppy while you're at it.
  • Think of this as a good thing. Maybe Microsoft will make Windows only work with a Microsoft chip.
  • i have an EE degree too so i understand some of the stuff ( i work in microwave/optical so its slightly different than designing cpus ) but consider this :
    If youre given a team of 50 engineers in a physical and logical design team, unlimited budget, all the tools you need, a lot of time and a fab plant could you design a cpu ? I'd be willing to put a firm bet on yes.
    M$ right now has 50 engineers working on a chip with 9 million transistors (equivalent to the PIII). They arent stating what its going to be used for (no relation to the solo 2 in this article which has 2.2 million transistors). since they cranked out a chip with 2.2mil i'm willing to bet they could crank out a cpu. hell, if cyrix, amd, via and transmeta can do it..why not m$ ? and transmeta had fewer people.
  • by Ken Broadfoot ( 3675 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:48AM (#833076) Homepage Journal

    How am I gonna crash my Windows box if I can't get it to boot up in the first place?

  • Seems as if it may be their attempted answer to Crusoe??? MSFT likes to match every product that ever comes out to the market with something of their own. Some become reality many evaporate.
  • Okay, I know this is a funny and I shouldn't get all serious...

    But I think you can service pack the Intel processors! I think you can flash update Intel processors since the Pentium II, to replace the microcode while the chip is running, to fix bugs or try to add work-arounds any physical defects that might crop up.

    There is hope for micros~1 chips yet :-)

    cheers,
    G
  • ...they're jumping in just in time to get beat up by the open source processor [opencores.org] groundswell.

  • by The Dev ( 19322 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:56AM (#833083)
    Maybe this will make it easier for MS to put government backdoors in their products. Backdoors in hardware are much easier to conceal and harder to circumvent. Clipper Chip anyone?
  • by pjrc ( 134994 ) <paul@pjrc.com> on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @10:27AM (#833087) Homepage Journal
    If you're selling over 100,000 units/year, it often makes sense to design your own ASIC.

    It's really not a big deal to make your own chip. When I was doing grad school part time several years ago, I made this little chip, together with a small group of other students [pjrc.com]. The whole thing only took a couple months to design. I learned a lot and since then I've had a much better perspective about how ICs are designed, which has been helpful designing at the board level.

    The CNN article is remarkable vauge about what Microsoft's chip actually does.... it may be a CPU, or maybe just "glue logic". Whatever it is, it's common to design ASICs for high volume products. Unfortunately, it also common to make a big deal out of nothing.

  • Microsoft pretty much NEVER does it right the first time out. Rev#1 is a joke, Rev#2 is a pig, but workable, Rev#3 is the one that dominates the marketplace.

    Unfortunately, they've followed that pattern so often that everyone begins to quake when MS releases Rev#1, often as not folding then and there. Also unfortunately, devoid of competition, MS doesn't feel as intense a need to get the product up to the Rev#3 stage.

    Imagine Microsoft's version of...
    - The Pentium FP bug
    - The 286 comatose phase-of-the-moon jump bug
    - The 286, period
    - The 6502 catch-fire-and-burn instruction
    The mind boggles.

    Is it harder to push buggy hardware into the marketplace than it is buggy software?
  • by maggard ( 5579 ) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @10:34AM (#833091) Homepage Journal
    Ignore all of the yoyo's bleating out "but why does my toaster need to be networked" and 1001 variations of trivial-appliance-with-blue-screen-of-death.

    This is about MS moving out of the computer and into your TV. Not the good ole rabbit-ears TV, not even your cable-hooked-plus-VCR TV but tomorrows TV.

    Think Smart-Cable-box + WebTV + Tivo + Digital Download of Media (music, movies, special events) + Games + Network Sharing + Remote Applications + Home Automation + Telephony.

    One box that plugs in, from one vendor, with massive name recognition and tons of back-end architecture already in place. All of your couch-potato needs from one source.

    • Smart-Cable-box: Plug it in and it talk to the cable-company. Figures out what the local specs are & automagically configures itself.
    • WebTV on Steroids: Browse from your couch - or in a window on the screen, or pop directly to the show's website or just point to the starlets outfit and order it online.
    • Tivo: Wanna watch a show later? All of the features of a Tivo/Replay/etc. but from a big name vendor and more heavily integrated.
    • Digital Download of Media: Media Player on steroids. Why bother digitizing a program when you can get it already that way? Want to see "Harold & Maude"? Put a request in for it and it'll get downloaded overnight. Pay extra and watch it live. Excited about that special club remix of Brittny Spears? It's on your box for a buck or two. MS has been working on digital delivery for years - this is the terminal.
    • Games: Think X-Box light. Think Quake I availiable for a rental fee.
    • Network Sharing: Want to plug in your Windows PC? Hook it up and it'll be automagically configured through MS's gateway.
    • Remote Applications: Rent MS Money or Word for the evening.
    • Home Automation: Want to control your hall light? Buy the MS compliant outlet controller and it's taken care of. MS has been involved in a series of these projects over the years but putting the controller in a smart box that's easily upgraded could be the breakthrough.
    • Telphony: Your cable-co already offers tons of 'free' features if you sign up with them for your phone services but they're all the same ones the copper-wire folks offer. How about a universal inbox including your voice-mail? No "push pound-one to..." just point & click. Gramma calls? The TV flashes her name.

      So why a custom chip? Control. Now MS can put all of the anti-piracy / media-control / encryption right into the hardware. Optimize the CPU to run MS architecture material. Heck, with WinHEC they've been setting the specs for years now, it's a small jump to just doing it directly.

      Microsoft doesn't want to be your OS vendor, or your applications vendor, not even your ISP or cable-company or channel - it wants to be all of them.

      Yesterday the MS WebTV, today the MS Phone, tomorrow the MS Information/Entertainment/Shopping system.

      Convergence.

  • Microsoft doesn't understand where their power comes from--and that works in our favor.

    Why is MS popular? "Compatibility". And when MS creates new technologies, what's the best word to describe the usual result? "Incompatible". So please, MS, dump a lot of money into creating a new chip and software to run on it--it only hastens your demise.
    --
  • Now, let me see...would chip manufacture fall under operating systems, or software applications? Hrm...

    ---
    "The Constitution...is not a suicide pact."
  • by rho ( 6063 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:05AM (#833097) Homepage Journal

    I'd look at this as a means for Microsoft to bypass the hardware market all together. If they can manufacture and market a WebTV box that uses the .NET infrastructure and the C# language as a development environment, they can bypass Intel, Dell, etc. altogether. And, keep those profit margins up.

    You may be able to file this in the "set-top box" file, and safely forget it. This is either a really brilliant move, or a feint to keep the wolves at bay.

  • by xianzombie ( 123633 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:05AM (#833099)

    Made from 99.9% recycled Intel

    Well, maybe not, but in accordence with standard embrace, extend, extinguish philosiphy, I would have to say yes.

    But my question is (aside from perhaps the stereo and tv) why does anything in my house besides my computer need to be networked? I don't need web access on my toaster, blender, microwave, refridgerator, washer, or dryer. If you can wire up my sink to automatically rinse the dishes and put them in the dishwasher for me, while having my Mindstorm's clear off the table I just ate from, then *maybe* and only maybe, will I feel that its necessary to have my appliances networked.

    soon i'll be surfing the web from my toilet paper spindle

  • Only a monopoly can get away with this. They have many conflicts of interest, but people keep using them.

    Think about the sonystation vs. the MS Xbox. Sony is still paying microsoft for windows while competeing with them in the console space.

    Office software suites are another example of this problem. And we all know how well lotus and Borland did vs MS.

    Why would you want to write any software knowing that if microsoft decides to release something similar they're going to leverage the OS to run you out of business?
    Because about 80-90% of computers still run windows.
    If there was a more viable alternative (large market share) I'm sure many companies would write software for them.

    Maybe linux someday?
  • i'll make this brief

    MS in the past have created competition to ward off anti-trust is this a way of say "hey we are competitors with Intel AMD IBM are several other companies as well"

    so basically they are no longer an monopoly because they entered another market

    i know that its all seperated but a judge might be more *understanding* if they are in a market where they dont have an monopoly

    or are they asking for more trouble because they are (will) be optimizing their OS to their chip?

    -rev

  • Making chips these days is just like printing T-shirts. You design it (that's the hard bit), you send the design to a chip maker, they make screens, they run you off a load. You want more later, they get the screens out of the file and run you off some more. The economics are the same, too. 1,000 chips might cost $500 a piece but 1,000,000 will cost a lot less.

    Which means that everyone these days can make chips on a shoestring. Well, not an Open Source shoestring, but in the scale of corporate financing it's about as expensive to make a chip today as it is to buy a fleet of 10 cars, development costs notwithstanding.

  • I think a better solution would be simply to elimiate most of these devices in favor of a better device.

    Some of what you said I can agree with. The lights, heat, A/C, and doorbell. That's all great, becuase those are stationary things.

    As for your TV, why does that need to be a separate device? Can't that just be a big output device from your central computer (or secondary computer for data storage of all your movies/tv/etc.)? I mean, why does that need to be a device with it's own electronics, it's just a screen? Store all your movies and shit on your computer (in your office, basement, wherever), and just have input/output devices wherever you like them. As for an alarm clock, I think that's something that the PDA can take over for. Just have a cradle for it by your bed. As for stereo, why do you need one? Store mp3's (or whatever format) on your computer and wire your house with a speaker system (output device). Now you can control any of these devices from any convienient input/output device (PDA, workstation on your desk, tv, workstation in another room, whatever). You see, this idea of having all these dedicated devices strikes me as a bit silly with all this beautiful digital convergence.

    Just my two cents.

    --Joshua
  • I can see this and their Linux ports as endeavors to ensure the respective Baby Bill's survive the inevitable split; MS management knows now that they won't be able to play later, so they're expanding the masrkets of both the future MS/APPS and MS/OS.

    Or, looking at it in an evil way; They can't get away with OS/Applications market collusion, so they're expanding into markets the DOJ hasn't prosecuted them for..
  • by Sun_Tzu99 ( 224988 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:07AM (#833115)
    From reading the article, It's not like Microsoft itself is creating the chips, one of their companies is, webTV. This really isn't that big of a leap for a company to make.

    This, of course dosn't mean that M$ isn't the evil empire...
    ___________________
  • OK, if Microsoft wants to make chips, fine, just make sure they don't end up in my car. I'm shuddering just thinking of the consequences of that move.

    M.G.
  • Sounds like the early macs to me. I always thought that MS came to domination because the PC architecture was more open then the macs. Maybe MS willing to risk a closed architecture but I figure they can't be that stupid can they? Evil yes but stupid no.

    A Dick and a Bush .. You know somebody's gonna get screwed.

  • Think about the sonystation vs. the MS Xbox. Sony is still paying microsoft for windows while competeing with them in the console space. Oh, I get it! So you're saying that Microsoft is a monopoly because they compete with their clients? We must have a terrible amount of monopolies hanging around this US of A then. Damn shame. And unamerican. Why would you want to write any software knowing that if microsoft decides to release something similar they're going to leverage the OS to run you out of business? Because about 80-90% of computers still run windows. What OS would you target if you were a company and wanted to sell your software? MS has every right to compete with you that any other company does. All you can do is know (hope) that you have the better product. If that means integrating with Windows is a feature your potential customers want, so be it. That doesn't mean MS can't do anything illegal to elbow you out. But in many cases, I would guess it's just the smaller time shops (relative to MS) who don't have the resources to compete with MS being jelous. MS may produce crappier products, but they have name recongnition and the cash to market. If you think that's unfair, then it's more a problem with capitalism. If there was a more viable alternative (large market share) I'm sure many companies would write software for them. Yup. Good work. I'm sick of people who believe MS to be a monopoly simply because they don't like the products MS makes. I know I don't- I just don't use them. The question of whether or not MS is a monopoly has to due with unlawful business practices and policies, not how crappy their products are.
  • Software, however, has massive profit margins, largely due to its different economies of scale. In hardware, like most other manufatured goods, your first few units a very expensive. Then, as quantities go up, your costs go down -- that's the benefit of mass production. However, once you reach a certain critical point, finding the resources and capital to make more actually starts cutting back into your profits -- i.e., when Intel is already running a peak capacity in their PIII fabs, having demand shoot up 25% in a month really wouldn't be a good thing, becuase they'd either have to miss ship dates or throw a bunch of money at farming out or ramping up their capacity.

    Software, on the other hand, almost never hits that saturation point. 95% or more of the cost of making a program is incurred before the first copy even ships: development, marketing, testing, etc. Once copies are being boxeed and shipped in large numbers, each one only costs the company an additional few cents for duplication, printing, and distribution.

    Now, enter the Free Software movement (or at least its popular media recognition): you can get your OS, server applications, and business tools absolutely free, with the source code, on your choice of hardware. Connected by the Internet, thousands upon thousands of developers toil away on labors of love, making their OSS projects into the best tools on the market.

    One might think that this spelled disaster for the old-school software houses, who relied on a steady stream of income from every shrink-wrapped box. However, that same Internet that made the spread of quality, free tools possible also makes possible a new kind of company...the ASP. ASPs have many of the advantages of the software industry: low cost per unit, easy distribution, etc. However, it also allows for new levels of user authentication (preventing piracy), planned obsolescence (you can only buy a subscription to a service, and the ASP changes the software at will), and lock-in (once all your corporate data is on another company's servers, you're going to think twice about telling them to go screw themselves).

    Microsoft, as the world's largest developer of new software, is uniquely positioned to take over the ASP market. They can do this either by moving Windows, Office, and the rest of their end user applications to an ASP model, or by working to become the "standard" developers of ASP platform development tools and applications. With personal hardware thrown into their stable, they can insure that every WebTV box, PocketPC PDA, and X-Box console speaks the Microsoft dialect of networking, and reads and writes exclusively Microsoft documents.

    .NET is Microsoft's ASP power-play. If C#, DCOM, et. al. can become standards for server-side distributed business logic, then anything that doesn't play nice with them runs the risk of becoming very unpopular. This is why the success of Linux and *BSD on the desktop is a noble, but less important goal -- the battle now is for control of the network, and the network will be the "killer application" for many years to come.

  • by El Huevo Anales ( 223884 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2000 @09:09AM (#833134)
    The Solo2 chip -- named after Solo, WebTV founder Steve Perlman's dog

    I think that should be nominated for stupidest name yet. It would have been alright if they had called it the Han Solo2 or something. Jeez, even chewbacca is a better chip name then that.

  • I bet they will delay as much as possible on giving out any specs, so that everybody will use WinCE (talk about an aptly named product =:-) instead of running QNX, Linux, or whatever else people like to put on little embedded systems.
    I wonder what makes MS think they can pull off a switch like this and make it worth it... I'll be curiously watching to see what sort of evil plan they have, because they must have some sort of plan to embark on such a odd project...

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