January 29, 2001, 10:49 AM — Persuading AMD and Intel to fight over open source this year
I SPENT MY YOUTH during the pop psychology age of I'm OK, You're OK, a book by Thomas Harris that helped popularize something called transactional analysis. One of my favorite authors of the genre was Dr. Eric Berne, who wrote an interesting book called Games People Play. I'm about to play one of the games Berne identified as "Let's you and him fight," a game in which you ignite a conflict between others and then sit back and watch with glee as they battle it out.
My contestants are AMD and Intel. I'd love to watch these chipmeisters wage war.
The catalyst for the fight is some advice I'd like to offer on how each of these competitors might leverage open source in an attempt to beat the other. The operative word here is "attempt." Ideally, I wouldn't want either company to actually beat the other for any extended period, because ongoing heated competition keeps prices low and performance high.
Here's the advice: Go for broke and invest heavily in open source. Devote as many resources as possible to tune the optimizations in the GNU compilers to produce code that runs best with your chips. Then post benchmarks demonstrating how much faster Linux and the various BSDs run when you rebuild them using these optimizations and run them on your AMD or Intel hardware.
If possible, convince commercial Linux and BSD distributors to offer versions of their products optimized specifically for your chips. Better yet, rebuild a handful of distributions yourself and then offer the CD-ROM images free for the download. You'll have to rebuild all of the applications, not just the kernel, to make this strategy worthwhile.
Most important, do it now because all of the external factors are aligning perfectly for this move to work.
In the first place, open source is about to get a big boost because the dot-com economy is tanking. It may sound counterintuitive, but open-source guru Bruce Perens was right when he said a slow economy presents the best opportunities for open source because companies turn to free software when they no longer have money to burn. The dot-coms aren't floundering because there aren't opportunities. They're floundering because they got spoiled on the irrational exuberance of investors and spent money foolishly. Open source can benefit from the lessons in frugality these companies now have to learn.