Barrett on the soapbox for Merced

Intel CEO Craig Barrett told execs at Dell's DirectConnect show Thursday that the upcoming processor will be the "engine for e-business".

Intel President and CEO Craig Barrett issued an ultimatum Thursday to executives attending Dell Computer's DirectConnect conference: Become an e-business or die.

In a keynote here, Barrett said that in five years 1 billion people worldwide are expected to have access to a computer. In two to three years, e-commerce will be a trillion dollar industry. And by the year 2002, he estimated that e-commerce will account for 10 percent of the US gross domestic product. "That means we can't ignore it," Barrett said. "Either take advantage of it or get steamrolled. The backbone of all this is obviously the Internet. In a few years, there won't be a difference between Internet companies and other businesses. All companies will be Internet companies or they will effectively cease to exist. It's a battle cry we have to follow."

Not surprisingly, Barrett touted Intel's upcoming 64-bit Merced chip as the future "engine for e-business", reiterating that it should ship by the middle of 2000.

On the issue of electronic commerce, Barrett repeated Dell CEO Michael Dell's comments yesterday that the Internet is reshaping capital flow. But he placed less emphasis on business efficiency, saying that agility must replace efficiency. "I'm not going to get into semantics here, because I think we essentially mean the same thing," he said.

Barrett needed some agility of his own during his speech as several demonstrations failed to work. At one point, he was unable to get access to a server, while another demo's graphic showed the wrong illustration.

Servers, Barrett said, will be the backbone of a company's infrastructure, and an effective company will require a scalable server and client system. As a result, there will be a huge demand for increased server capacity to accommodate traffic volume, which is where Intel's new high-performance chips come into play. "We are really looking at [Merced] to be one of the main engines in electronic-commerce growth," Barrett said. "We are going to need strong, cost-effective engines."

A futuristic demonstration showed how day-today business will be conducted, using technology that blends fingerprint identification and voice interaction with smarter desktop computers that talk. Workers will be able to log into their computers using a handheld device that identifies their fingerprint, Barrett said. Once in, they'll be able to issue simple commands to the computer, such as asking it to read aloud voice mail and the daily itinerary.

"There is nothing in this demo that is technically impossible today," Barrett said. "This is the sort of workstation that e-commerce workers will work on in the future. This is where we are going."

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