Intel's Barrett Gives Final Keynote as CEO

Intel's out-going CEO Craig Barrett delivered the opening keynote at this week's Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco (March 1-3). Along with the standard trade-show technology touting, Barrett waxed philosophical on a range of issues, from the 40th anniversary of Moore's Law, to the state of the U.S. education system.

Barrett assured his audience that Intel was on track to see almost all of its processing platforms migrate to dual-core capability by the end of the year. A dual-core configuration puts two cores on a single silicon die, which provides greater computing performance without much of a bump in energy consumption or heat generation. Intel says that more than 70 percent of its processors shipping at the end of 2006 will be dual-core chips.

"We not only have the potential to change the world with this innovation, we are changing it on a daily basis," Barrett told his audience.

Intel will begin shipping dual-core processors in the second quarter with the release of the Pentium Extreme Edition 840 and Pentium D chips, said Stephen Smith, VP of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group.

Barrett said that the dual-core chips would give Intel a means of continuing to fulfill the predictions of Moore's Law without having to increase the frequency of chip production. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted back in 1965 that the number of transistors on a chip would double every 18 months or so. Moore's Law, as that prediction came to be known, has held ever since.

Barrett acknowledged the 40th anniversary of that prescient observation with a promise to Moore: "I've told Gordon that I plan to help him celebrate the 50th anniversary of Moore's Law in 2015," Barrett said, "and hopefully the 60th anniversary in 2025."

Barrett also hyped his company's wireless communications technology, particularly Intel's continuing support for WiMax (also known as IEEE 802.116a), a wireless standard designed to connect Wi-Fi hotspots to the Internet and provide a wireless alternative for last-mile broadband connectivity to businesses and homes. Unlike Wi-Fi, which provides only a few hundred square feet of coverage, WiMax networks extend over several square miles.

"I think WiMax is going to be a disruptive technology that's going to change the way we think of mobile connectivity," Barrett said. "Hopefully, toward the end of 2005 or 2006 you're going to see massive commercial rollouts of this capability."

Barrett also used his last keynote as CEO of the world's largest chipmaker to criticize the U.S. government for its level of investment in education and R&D at the university level. He characterized what he called the "sorry K-12 education system" as "the biggest ticking bomb in the U.S." He called the inadequate level of government support for academic research and development "the Achilles' heel of innovation in the U.S."

"The U.S. needs to adopt a Hippocratic Oath when it comes to IT," Barrett added. "Basically, [they need] do-no-harm policies."

In May, the 65-year-old chief exec will pass the CEO baton to Intel's chief operating officer, Paul Otellini. Barrett, who was the company's fourth CEO, will continue to serve on the company's board.

This will be the first time in the company's history that Intel has not been run by a technologist. Otellini's background is in sales and marketing. During a post-speech Q&A, Barrett suggested that a successful tech company today doesn't really need a technologist at the helm.

"It was important in the early stages for this company to be run by technologists," Barrett said. "We exploited technology, and that was a key aspect. But now, while there's no shortage of technologists, there are so many other aspects. There are the marketing and branding aspects, and the ecosystem development aspect. Paul [Otellini] doesn't bring the technology side of things like I do, but he understands the sales and marketing side, and he understands the importance of developing the global ecosystem."