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Dubbed Wintel, the two technology giants worked hand in hand for much of the PC era, with Microsoft building the Windows operating system and Intel making the chips to run it. But as mobile technology began to replace PCs’ prowess, both companies sought new partners and the alliance started to fray.
News this month of vulnerabilities in Intel’s processors has driven the wedge between the two even further, forcing Microsoft to do much of the work to patch security holes and both disagreeing over the extent of the possible disruptions to customer operations.
The incident has brought into focus the computer industry’s utter dependence on Intel, which controls more than 90 percent of the market for laptop processors and has a near monopoly in server chips. That too has implications for Microsoft, which in recent years has become a cloud computing service provider to lessen its reliance on operating systems and business programs. As a big buyer of Intel server chips, Microsoft is also susceptible to fallout from the supplier’s design flaws.
For most of the six months since Intel made Microsoft aware of the problem, the two worked closely together to try to preempt an industrywide meltdown. Their efforts, which included other chipmakers and companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, may have headed off widespread security breaches for now. But tensions over the fallout are on public display.
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