Craig Barrett's exclusive interview with ZDNet: Part 3

Dell cited as target of PCI-X consortium, and what it's like to be boss of Intel...
Written by Richard Barry, Contributor

Richard Barry: Last question, we're nearly out of time here.

PCI-X seems to be a drive in the industry that has gone on record to try and shake of Intel's grip over the bus architecture, you've got three very large organisations here pushing PCI-X. They claim it's a better, more advanced design that can deliver more than PCI's 66MHz, in fact the trio behind it claim 133MHz.

(PCI-X is a bus architecture designed by Compaq, IBM and HP in secret that has been presented to the Special Interest Group and is now awaiting review. It is expected to be announced within two months with servers and third party products available in the first half of next year. A member of the PCI-X consortium was quoted last week saying: 'We're trying to create an environment where Intel is an equal player in the technology, not the controller.')

Craig Barrett: PCI-X is merely an extension of our own PCI architecture, simply doubling the bus speed. OK, I think you have to examine the motives of these companies.

Richard Barry: (Interrupts) What are the motives?

Craig Barrett: Well I think you should examine them -- you're the reporter.

Richard Barry: What are the motives from your point of view?

Craig Barrett: Oh I would think they were concerned about competition in that space; the fact that they created a specification in private when we have a public forum.

Richard Barry: Do you resent that?

Craig Barrett: No, resent is not a word I would use, I'm just being pragmatic.

Richard Barry: They've done this in private?

Craig Barrett: They've done this in private. You know we don't make computers. They've come up with this bus specification in private, left out some other players who are serious competitors of theirs. They've kept it under wraps for nine months what reason? Probably to get some lead in the marketplace and freeze out the competition.

Richard Barry: But they've said on record that this will be adopted as an industry standard once it goes through the Special Interest Group-

Craig Barrett: (Interrupts) Then why did they keep it secret for nine months?

Richard Barry: Maybe they didn't want Intel to know about it.

Craig Barrett: Or someone else.

Richard Barry: There's something you know that I don't know. (Laughs)

Craig Barrett: (Laughs) Ha! Who are they afraid of competing with?

Richard Barry: According to them, Intel.

Craig Barrett: No, we don't sell servers and compete with them, but who's starting to? Who's the hottest computer company in the industry right now?

Richard Barry: Dell?

Craig Barrett: Aha. (Grins) And who did they freeze out of the discussions for nine months?

Richard Barry: And will PCI-X succeed in the absence of a competing alternative?

Craig Barrett: We've been very straightforward, we've said take it to the PCI SIG, you know -- that's where suggestions are supposed to go. So hopefully it will come to the SIG we'll analyse it and look at it and if it's a reasonable advancement and it makes sense, we're not going to fight it. It's kind of an evolutionary improvement while we're looking at some revolutionary improvements as well. Some of the advanced next generation stuff, the next generation I/O stuff. We'll compare it that and make an assessment.

I think you need to read between the lines here.

Richard Barry: Ha! Oh for an hour. OK, I know I said that was the last of my questions but if I may just one more for a large number of our readers: Craig, what's it like being the boss of Intel?

Craig Barrett: It's ah-

Richard Barry: (Interrupts) Apart from being exhausted by travelling and so on.

Craig Barrett: Oh these [things] are just... you just dedicate a week of your life to it. Without sleep when you're travelling but it's worth it. Because you get to see a lot it's a good investment of your time. But it's scary for the following reason. I joined Intel about 25 years ago when the company was a $50m a year deal -- tiny, you know -- and the whole industry at that time was only a couple of billion dollars -- the whole semiconductor industry. Today it is $150bn and we're a reasonable fraction of that. Moving to a very central position in the industry. But the scariest thing about it. You know these days Intel is considered one of these bellweather companies, and if we, y'know, 'sneeze' the whole industry catches a cold.

That's what makes it so challenging so scary because all of a sudden you have a perceived burden on your shoulders. It's not just your company... we're supposed to be something big in the industry and if you say business is good, it's wonderful and if you say business is bad, boy it's terrible.

It's not a position I particularly relish but other than that it's fun because you work with a ton of very smart people and you get to interface with some very interesting partners all over the world and the technology moves so incredibly rapidly, it's never still.

Richard Barry: On that I'd like to thank you for taking the time to speak to the News Channel.

Craig Barrett: Sure, thank you.

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