The green flash

When the prospect of doing a blog came across my screen, I turned to my most trusted advisor on such matters, one of my 19-year old twin boys...

When the prospect of doing a blog came across my screen, I turned to my most trusted advisor on such matters, one of my 19-year old twin boys. He’s a technology buff in his own right and a freshman in EECS at Oregon State University. I managed to get him to look up from his latest copy of Wired for a few moments to answer my question, “If I were to If I'm Intel's CTO, why isn't this blog on the Intel site? do a blog, what would you want me to write about?” His answer convinced me that I might have something to unique to say, “People always want to know what will be new and cool, not just next year or even the year after, but in five years or even ten years and that’s what you’re really good at explaining.” With my mission statement so quickly crafted, I agreed to accepted the blog offer, and this is installment one.

Unfortunately, you won’t find much of the long range stuff in this first entry. Before jumping in, I thought it best to get the start-up information out of the way and, hopefully, save you from asking me a bunch of obvious questions. That’s not to say I don’t look forward to answering your questions, because I do, but I’d rather keep them focused on the technical topics to be discussed in the upcoming entries rather than all the whys and wherefores of doing a blog for ZDNet.

First off, I hope to give you a unique vantage point to the future of information technology. Most of what you read in print and online is at least one extra hop from the people doing the work. Even then it is generally after the fact or at least after the prototype is working. My job will be to eliminate the middle man so to speak and get you closer to the leading or, as we often say, the bleeding edge. Since part of my responsibilities include directing a 1000-person research organization, a lot of what I hope to say will be real-time. We’ll go inside the labs and talk about the ideas and experiments now underway that will define the future of information and communication technology (ICT) in five to ten years.

Weaving technology and opinion

This leads to an obvious question: If I'm Intel’s CTO, why isn't this blog on the Intel site? The simple answer is that Intel’s corporate site is not a place for personal opinion. It’s the place you go for information about new products or standards efforts. If that’s what you’re looking for, then please go there. What I plan to do here will be technical -- but also rife with opinion and, hopefully, insight you’re not likely to get anywhere else.

Sure, when there is new and relevant Intel product technology, I'll talk about it. It would be foolish not to. But my real focus will be on the ideas and innovations that will underlie information and communication systems of tomorrow. Similarly, I won’t be discussing the competitive environment or engaging in a lively debate over who has the best game platform. There are plenty of other web sites and blogs for having those discussions, so I won’t deal with them here.

Connecting the dots

One of the things I will try to do is seek out the technological inflection points, a term Intel’s legendary ex-CEO, Andy Grove, made a household phrase more than a decade ago. It’s often easy to miss them when you just look at the individual data points. My job will be to put them into context to see if they point to an impending inflection point in technology. Perhaps an historical example would be useful.

The move to multi-core processors caught a lot of people by surprise. I was shocked when I heard an industry visionary say he thought multi-core was just a short term work-around until we got the semiconductor processes back on track. He was literally expecting us to invent a new transistor that would be super fast and eliminate all the problems with power. Most importantly, from his point of view, it would let us get back to building screaming fast single-threaded processors. When he saw our 5-year processor roadmap had only multi-core processors from 2006 onward, he finally realized that the industry had reached a true inflection point. If I’m doing my job here, you won’t be similarly surprised in five years (more or less) when something equally dramatic occurs.

Another thing worth noting is that many of the data points will come from outside of Intel. As Bill Joy, another industry legend, once said, “Most of the smart people work for some other company,” It follows that most of the good ideas come from elsewhere, too. Since talking to technology leaders across industry and academia is part of my job description, I’ll do my best, without breaking confidentiality, to bring you their insights and observations. I’ll also to try to give you the global perspective of the trends and ideas shaping information and communication technology. As Intel’s network of research labs reaches across the U.S. to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and now Mexico, I’ll share the views of the technology and policy leaders from around the world.

Let the dialog begin

I welcome your questions and comments, as well as your ideas for future topics. Feel free to point me to key breakthroughs, inflections or scenarios that I’ve missed. I’ll address the most interesting ones, and I’ll try to do so in a timely fashion.

Enough housekeeping. Now that you’ve seen the green flash, we can start to look over the horizon.