Grove's vision: PCs will be different, but the same

Intel honcho focuses on a heavy duty processor-based future, and slams Euro regulators.

Gadgets are great, but there's nothing like a good, old-fashioned PC -- so says former Intel chief executive Andy Grove.

Speaking before delegates from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) at London's Four Seasons Hotel Tuesday morning, Grove said he sees mobile devices as essentially secondary to the PC. "I think the mobile [telephone] is an important phenomenon, but if anything it is an adjunct to e-commerce. However I don't think the bulk of e-commerce will happen through a cell phone, even if it could."

While CEO of Intel, Grove was known as a maverick icon of the industry, but Tuesday's speech was largely a rehash of earlier themes -- and a platform to drum up support for Intel's upcoming 64-bit processor, the IA-64. Grove is now the chairman of Intel's board, responsible for overseeing the company's relationships with the rest of the industry, while Craig Barrett occupies the top role.

Grove said he believes that despite the emergence of Net-savvy devices such as PDAs, mobile phones and the like, the PC "will remain the most important conduit for the bulk of e-commerce". While the PC will remain the de-facto Net-access device "for a very long time", Grove conceded that the definition of a PC needs to be modified. "Characteristics like I/O, hard drives, et cetera will remain an inherent part of the PC, but inevitably the shape, design, size, et cetera will change," he said.

Regulation was another big theme of the talk. Asked whether he thinks the EU is over-regulating e-commerce, he declined a direct answer, saying he was not qualified to comment. But he did suggest that regulators have a twitchy trigger-finger where it comes to the Net. He said he had pleaded with officials to follow the Hippocratic oath -- "First, do no harm."

Each Internet problem, from pornography to security to taxation, has a regulator worried, he warned, but allowing the Net to swamp itself in regulations early on would be dangerous. "My own personal hope is that they will resist the temptation to regulate too much," he said.

Take me to the e-commerce special.