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In an age when software rules, it's got to be tough to be stuck making hardware. Intel's Mash Maker is yet another "mashup" tool for connecting data from one website with tools on another, such as funneling addresses to Google Maps. Microsoft and Yahoo have similar products. Why is Intel, which makes chips, getting into such a profitless business? The "Intel Inside" advertising campaign convinced people to start asking what chip a PC runs on, but never persuaded them to care. A reporter wangled this explanation from an Intel marketer:

It doesn't necessarily sell more hardware but it does provide end users with a richer browser experience, said Jeff Klaus, marketing director for Intel Mash Maker, who admitted that the product is a bit of a departure for the company.

Translation: Intel is doing this to impress Web developers. (No one seriously thinks "end users" are going to spend any amount of time playing with mashup tools.) These side projects amount to a perk for Intel's masses of bored engineers. Technically adept, but stuck endlessly optimizing code that runs deep in the innards of computers, they can be bribed to stay at their jobs with this kind of entertainment. Marketers like Klaus run with it because they know that industry trade reporters will predictably pick up the story. Thus we get an Intel recruiting ad dressed up as a news item. That is a mashup, but not the sort Intel claims it meant to foster.