Intel chief fails to impress

Intel chief executive Craig Barrett is no match for his predecessor, says Guy Kewney
Written by Guy Kewney, Contributor

Intel chief executive Craig Barrett is no match for his predecessor, says Guy Kewney

If Intel boss Craig Barrett was hoping to impress people with his charisma and vision when he agreed to do this year's keynote speech at NetWorld+Interop here in Las Vegas, then he needed more rehearsal time.

Barrett, it turns out, is no match for his predecessor, Andy Grove, who could mesmerise audiences with technical trickery.

And if he truly is a man of vision, he needs more data to back it up: it's very impressive, truly, to forecast the convergence of voice, data and wireless networks -- but when asked fairly simple questions afterwards, you have to be able to answer them.

And when he claims to be able to make processors which are both faster than Transmeta Crusoe chips, and use less power than Crusoe, he simply doesn't carry conviction.

His keynote was greeted as "nothing happened" by delegates I spoke to on their way out of the conference theatre in the Las Vegas Hilton. And after he'd given it, he was given an opportunity to expand on his thoughts; and again, nothing happened.

My question was a pretty obvious no-brain opportunity to explain which he thought was going to win the race in wireless standards -- where there are three upcoming technologies fighting for recognition.

"How do you see third-generation phones, HyperLAN2, and 802.11a in the race to take the market?" was what I asked. Craig Barrett began a rambling answer which made it clear he thought I'd asked about 802.11b -- when this was corrected, he lamely admitted: "I'm no expert on that."

His presentation included a link-up over high-definition TV, across the Internet, with Ethernet inventor Bob Metcalfe at MIT. Metcalfe admitted that the technology involved was not adequate -- compressing and transmitting that video stream, he said, involved a four second lag.

Barrett admitted no such deficiencies in his own vision, which can't have impressed the network-expert audience, who will be well aware of the importance of network latency going forward. Instead, he demonstrated fairly simple over-LAN applications like remote control via a web browser, and video on demand over the Internet.

His message, as received by the audience, was that "there may be a downturn in the economy, but technology continues to advance, and networking will bounce back". It was a positive message, which the audience received well, but in a subdued manner.

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