A Tablet Tale

AMD joined the MeeGo Alliance, a group started by Nokia and Intel to promote Linux for tablets, netbooks, smartphones, and “embedded” devices like car navigation and entertainment systems.  Since Android is already in these spaces and already Linux-based, it’s pretty clear that the alliance is aimed at countering Google, but it’s less clear why so many different kinds of players want to do that.  The answer may be less in a single motive than in a host of different, sector-specific, ones.

Intel and AMD have a lot to gain by promoting general-purpose processors as the basis for smart appliances, and even more to gain by encouraging an application ecosystem for appliances that could be up-sold into laptop and even desktop computers.  Neither company makes any processor chips that aren’t “x86” in architecture, and Google’s Android efforts have been much broader than that, embracing pretty much any credible chip for the appliance market.  Breaking the x86 dominance of software would hurt both Intel and AMD.

Nokia’s interest here pre-dates its decision to pull Symbian back into Nokia as a development project, but it’s still likely that Nokia is hedging its bets a bit, hoping that a broader Linux-based ecosystem (the Linux Foundation hosts the MeeGo activity) would counter Google’s Android dominance, something that’s already threatening the smartphone space and that could be exacerbated if Android tablets really catch on.  In fact, Android could become in effect the successful non-server version of Linux, which pretty much everyone in the Linux community would like very much not to see.

In a final item, Juniper acquired Trapeze Networks from Belden, a move that’s been expected by Wall Street for some time.  Trapeze is an industrial-grade wireless LAN provider whose offerings can be targeted at the enterprise (which is how Juniper positions them in their press release) or at the now-expanding hospitality-Fi or hotspot market.

Both these spaces are important because of the tablet explosion.  Enterprises are somewhat interested in using smartphones as a way of getting communication with the “corridor warriors” and even off company premises, but they’re more interested in tablets (the 7-inch form factor is preferred) for that mission.  We also noted earlier that tablets with WiFi are cheaper and more accessible to consumers, and that they’d likely promote hotspot/hospitality-Fi applications.  In both cases, having technology that’s capable of delivering WiFi as an architected service component and not just as a local convenience is critical.

The Juniper decision to focus on the enterprise side with this deal, I think, underplays the value to Juniper and to the market.  The integration of Trapeze with Juniper’s service-layer assets make it a realistic element in not only enterprise-based service automation but also carrier-grade content delivery to tablets, and that’s a mission that crosses product and business unit boundaries.  Hopefully the execution will integrate the elements that make the deal a strong one, because the Trapeze buy puts Juniper competitors on notice and raises the risk someone will do a similar announcement with more spectacle and steal the market’s interest.

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