Intel has been under considerable pressure to expand its business beyond the traditonal "making processors go faster" model . Chip-sets that are optimised for wireless working — such as Centrino — have helped to move the debate on from simple speed to the idea of specific processors for specific tasks.
But Intel still has a lot of work to do in convincing customers, and the market, that it is relevant in a world where processing power has become commoditised. And when you throw an increasingly competent competitor in the form of AMD, with the associated antitrust trial, into the mix — then Intel, just like Microsoft, can no longer take its future for granted.
As an Intel veteran with more than 20 years at the company, Gordon Graylish, vice president of EMEA, has valuable insight into the company's legacy and future challenges.
ZDNet UK caught up with Graylish at the Wireless Cities event in Cannes to discuss some of the issues facing the chipmaker, including battery life, the state of UK research and development and Intel's ongoing antitrust problems in Europe.
Q: Why is Intel — a chip company — interested in rolling out Wi-Fi in cities?
A: It's something we've been involved in now for a number of years. We're involved in the Westminster council initiative and we've been involved in the US with a number of initiatives, but we're also involved in the emerging markets and in deploying technology across Asia and Europe.
We don't actually implement the technologies per se generally, but [when] we know someone has successfully implemented a security system or has implemented a home health system in this country, here's how they've done it and here's how it worked [we pass on that knowledge].
We can encourage a faster adoption of new technologies. All of this in the end is enlightened self-interest. Our payback is many years away but it allows people to adopt new technologies more rapidly, which adds value to what we do.
Why do you think the London Westminster rollout has taken two-and-a-half years to see the light of day?
I think the technologies aren't so much an issue — you have to have clarity and support to do that, and I think Westminster has done some very good things there, but you've got to work through the organisational, structural and societal implications of what you're doing. That gets much better once somebody's done it — the problem is when you're the very first you've got to work through those things yourself.
You have to be very clear about what am I trying to accomplish and make sure that the council and the population is behind you. Some of this is really easy — it's very difficult to argue with social inclusion. As I said before, moving services online means that people don't need to take the day off work in order to go and get a licence or a permit for a service or a benefit. Looking at delivery of council services that way, it's dramatically more scalable.
How does social inclusion work though, if poorer people don't have computers?
We have announced an initiative called World Ahead, [which] stated that it is not about the device. You clearly need affordable devices, but providing a device without really good connectivity, without content that is appropriate, cultural context, without training — teachers are critical — it doesn't work. You take those four pillars together and you have something that will shine.
I was in Nigeria a few weeks ago and the education minister said a very interesting thing there. He said the only thing that is separating a child in the Niger Delta and a child in London is knowledge. So we have to find ways of connecting the least advantaged in society to the knowledge economy. If they're not comfortable, they're in a world where they're competing with people who know how to use the tools, the basic tools.
My children think it's absolutely normal to build a web page or access anything around the world as they need it. There are children who don't in England and we've got to overcome that. I think that's a great social goal and I think that is something where governments have to set an example and encourage it, whether that's through the fiscal tax system or through the availability of devices — there needs to be a recognition that we are in a knowledge economy.
The UK, for example, is not going to win on the backs of the labour of its people — the physical labour — because you're competing with people who will do it for a crust of bread. That can't be the future for the UK. We've got to really take the inclusion of these people as a critical goal.
Batteries — especially exploding ones — have really hit the headlines in the last year or so. Is the solution better battery technology or making better use of the battery?
You have to do both things. Let me give you an example. On the battery you're clearly moving to people doing things such as fuel cells — and there are other new and exotic materials which will move into this area — that will lengthen battery life. You really need to isolate [the exploding batteries issue]. It was a manufacturing issue...