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Intel’s Mash Maker application, which launches today, isn’t exactly a new idea; Yahoo Pipes and Microsoft’s Popfly are similar. But Mash Maker marks the first time Intel has launched a software effort with no hardware attached. Presumably you can run Mash Maker on a computer with an AMD inside without melting your motherboard.
I was super skeptical at first and frankly, still am. According to Robert Ennals, senior researcher at Intel Research Berkeley and the architect for Mash Maker, the goal of Intel Research is to make the computing experience better. He said Intel Research and Intel Capital are the only divisions at Intel who have the freedom to think outside the PC box, as it were. Fine, Intel launched Mash Maker to make the Internet a better place. Does it?
Jeff Klaus, marketing director for Intel Mash Maker, said it is more useful than Pipes or Popfly because it not only allows users to make mashups, but also allows those who have downloaded the Mash Maker client to see which previous Mash Maker mashups might improve their web surfing experience. This way users of Mash Maker can benefit even if they don’t know how to create mashups. As one of the biggest complaints I have about Pipes is the difficulty I have using it (yes, it’s a me-centric complaint), I have to think there are others who could benefit from this.
In the meantime, I’ll watch with interest as Intel moves outside of its chip-centric world. A few years ago it made the decision with its Intel Capital venture investing arm to look not just for companies that could eventually sell more Intel chips, but also those that might make for a good return. In 2007 it started investing in seed deals, especially consumer-facing startups, as part of that expanding mission.
As for selling more chips, programs such as Mash Maker may not directly influence buying decisions, but by making the computer easier to use, Intel makes them more important and thus, more necessary. And by associating its brand with a fun application, Intel is achieving brand recognition in a much more sophisticated way than its dancing bunny-suited guys back in the 90s.