Silicon Insider: Meet the MacIntel

Combining the Best and the Biggest

But whatever the real story, this new marriage between Intel and Apple is very good news indeed, for it finally brings together the best processor with the best operating system, inside the best PC packaging. And that has to be cause for rejoicing. Apple may have the soul of a police state -- but unlike, say, the Soviet Union, Steve Jobs actually delivers. The iMacs, good or bad, have never been less than interesting. And sometimes they have been magnificent. The Mac OSX is so superior to Windows that you want to weep sometimes over how much the world has lost in the last 20 years. And, of course, the iPod is a work of genius, the defining product of our time.

Yet, for all of the good news, it is interesting to speculate whether this marriage was really conceived out of love … or if, in fact, it was a shotgun wedding.

About this time last year, I was working on a magazine article about Intel and meeting with senior company executives. Over dinner one night the conversation turned to the company's competition. Like most people, I assumed that Intel still saw its greatest threat in IBM and Advanced Micro Devices.

But I was wrong. Instead, these Intel executives, with real fear in their eyes, named a company I would never have thought of: Samsung.

Samsung scares Intel to death -- and the news of the last few months only underscores that Intel has good reason to be worried.

We don't think much about Samsung here in the United States beyond that it is a South Korean conglomerate that makes cheap TVs. But the reality is that Samsung currently has a market valuation of $100 billion, making it one of only four Asian companies to reach this size. It is bigger than Nokia and Sony. And it is rapidly becoming the dominant player in everything from flat-panel displays to game chips to cell phones.

Most tellingly, the only time they competed directly, Samsung kicked Intel's butt in flash memory for wireless, a market Intel assumed it owned. Finally, with more than $2 billion in quarterly profits, Samsung has got a very big war chest.

What scares Intel the most is that Samsung is not only frighteningly like Intel itself -- smart, disciplined, relentless -- but that it is also sitting at the epicenter of the most important consumer electronics market on the planet, while Intel is thousands of miles away in a different culture, speaking a different language. Thus, hooking up with Apple not only enables Intel to consolidate its ownership of the PC world, but puts it in the back pocket of the most innovative consumer electronics company on this side of the Pacific.

And Apple? In all of the excitement about the MacIntel announcement, you may have missed the news that Samsung is preparing to enter the MP3 player market -- that is, it's going after the iPod. Right now, the trade press is reacting with amusement (and the mainstream media haven't even noticed). But, as Otellini, in his bunny suit, may have whispered backstage to Steve Jobs: "Don't underestimate Samsung."

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

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