The Packet Rat | Commuters can't escape heat of Intel-AMD battle

The Rat

With the heat index off the charts, the Rat abandoned his usual urban-assault cycling commute for the slightly cooler confines of the Wasington Metro system. Riding with the masses seemed pre-ferable to heatstroke.

Plus, it gave him the opportunity to interact with people who might possibly exist outside the bubble of technology that is the wirebiter's known universe'a chance to take the pulse of society and see what really matters.

'It's like World War III,' the Rat overheard a man dressed in pinstripes moan as he stood on the Gallery Place Metro platform.

The three-piece-suited Cassandra stuck out like a sore thumb among the barely business-casual throng dressed for the dead of the D.C. summer, even as he hid behind his Wall Street Journal.

'Yes, I guess it does look bad in the Middle East,' the whiskered one replied, half-expecting no reply.

'No, not that,' the man shot back. 'It's Intel and AMD. They're cranking up their price war, and my portfolio is collateral damage.'

So much for escaping the tech bubble, the Rat thought.

The recent rollout of Intel Corp.'s new Core Duo processor line ('I guess the random product name generator was down for maintenance,' the Rat had cackled when he read the news) and Advanced Micro Devices Inc.'s purchase of graphics chip manufacturer ATI Technologies are just the latest manifestation of the ongoing war between the two companies for 'x86' supremacy.

Intel is in the midst of a bloodletting, releasing a wave of workers into the wild, while AMD has been eating their market share.

As for the bump in sales Intel expected from Microsoft Corp.'s Vista release ... well, it ain't happening any time soon. 'Every time Vista slips,' said Mr. Pinstripe, 'I die a little.'

'Well, this has to be good for someone in the tech market,' the cyberrodent speculated, as he found himself reflexively trying to comfort the wounded arbitrager.

'Not really,' the bear-mauled broker whimpered. 'All the PC manufacturers are fighting for market share themselves, and their price cuts are hurting all the smaller system-builders. Sun is still scraping bottom, Dell's laptops are literally catching fire. ... The only one getting any bump from this is Apple.'

Ah, Apple Computer Inc. The Cupertino corporation recently surpassed Dell Inc. in market capitalization, for those of you tracking such things for your retirement funds. Switching to Intel has certainly not hurt the bottom line for Jobs and Co., even if their latest advertising campaign has come across to some as being mean-spirited. However, the switch (and Apple's usual paranoia) has had some collateral damage of its own: The OpenDarwin project, which produced an open-source version of Apple's MacOS X core, has been put down like a stem-cell research bill.

'Well, at least there's a bright side,' sighed the beleaguered capitalist.

'Lowered IT costs for enterprises?' the Rat guessed. 'Better retail sector numbers?'
'No, you silly prole,' Mr. Pinstripe replied. 'My Exxon-Mobil shares earned as much as the gross domestic product of Peru.'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at [email protected].


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