Intel to support Napster model

The Napster Inc. model of peer-to-peer file sharing seems to have inspired Intel Corp. to apply similar technologies throughout a variety of applications.

Pat Gelsinger, Intel chief technology officer, is due to announce the chip maker’s plans to support file sharing of a wide range of both corporate and personal data at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) to be held later this month in San Jose, Calif. While the exact nature of the announcements have yet to be released, a spokesperson at Intel Wednesday confirmed that the Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor will encourage industry developers to aggressively adopt the file-sharing approach in its still nascent days of development.

“We think the underlying technology has a lot of potential,” the Intel spokesman said. “Napster would be (the equivalent of) the spreadsheet of the early days of the PC.”

Andy Grove, Intel’s chairman, championed Napster’s use of the Internet as an early sign of what will come in a highly connected world during a speech earlier this year at the biannual Harvard Internet & Society conference. While he did address copyright issues, Grove insisted that companies should try to make information available as easily and cheaply as possible to the end-user. “I do not think that any strategy that is based on suppressing something that cannot be suppressed will work,” Grove said.

Intel is now looking to support the free flow of information, as the company hopes that the machines helping people transfer data will use Intel chips. On the business side, this type of file sharing might help employees circulate key documents or statistics in a more efficient way than current techniques permit. In addition, the personal uses of swapping technology would possibly let family members shuffle home videos or photos between each other quite simply.

As these applications often require hefty processing power, Intel would seem to have a prominent place in the future of data exchange.

Malcolm Maclachlan, media e-commerce analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC), warned that the legal issues surrounding the ongoing suit brought against Napster by music labels would have far-reaching consequences on copyrighted material.

The power of a company such as Intel moving into the contentious file sharing space could rewrite the relationship between technology companies and media powerhouses, he added. “Looking to the long term, Intel wants to bring legitimacy to the peer-to-peer space,” Maclachlan said, “If (the recording industry) wants to pick a fight, they will be picking on a giant.”

The Napster case is profoundly affecting the way in which some people view the future of copyright laws, Maclachlan said. “I was surprised at how broad Judge Patel’s ruling was,” he said, referring to the judge’s decision to slap an injunction on Napster in late July. The injunction, however, was overruled after Napster appealed the decision.

Even if Napster is eventually ordered to shut down, a company as large as Intel moving into the market of content sharing could pose trouble for old guard media conglomerates. “There is a seminal shift occurring in the ways that technology companies and the media interact with each other,” Maclachlan said.

While direct profit from this type of technology seems unlikely, Intel could make money from providing some of the infrastructure for many file-sharing applications.

In order to spur on the peer-to-peer revolution, Intel wants to encourage the early adoption of policies and standards, regarding file-swapping techniques. Gelsinger will give demonstrations of current applications of peer-to-peer technologies at IDF, the Intel spokesman said.

Intel, in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at

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