Barrett, who will step down from his chief executive position in May, described how fundamental research into computing elements like transistors can fuel new and unexpected directions.
"The real point is that there is a core technology and that is these basic building blocks [transistors], and that we continue to wrap new things around these building blocks," Barrett said.
The building block metaphor provided a foundation for Barrett to expound on some of his favorite themes: the need for faster, ubiquitous broadband technology, including WiMax; better education for students in science and technology; government reform of R&D and wireless spectrum allocation; and Intels more traditional technologies.
At this weeks IDF, 1,400 companies have assembled to hear a presentation on Intels other efforts, which include WiMax, ultrawideband and some of the companys processor-specific technologies, which include Intel Virtualization Technology (formerly known as "Vanderpool") as well as Intels I/O Acceleration Technology, a new disclosure.
In addition, Intel has redesigned its own corporate building blocks, reassigning key executives to different divisions. For example, Pat Gelsinger, Intels former chief technicology officer, has been assigned to manage Intels digital office initiative. Don MacDonald, who assisted Frank Spindler in managing Intels successful Centrino initiative, is now overseeing the Intel digital home technology.
Not surprisingly, one of the key building blocks of Intels future products will be its dual-core products. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, who postulated that transistor densities would double every 12 months (since expanded to between 18 to 24 months), could not foresee that chips would employ more than one processor core, which would eat up additional transistors. Intels Montecito, a member of its Itanium family, will include 1.65 billion transistors and represent Intels first dual-core transistor.
Steve Pawlowski, director of platform planning architecture and technology for Intel, also showed off prototype PCs that will include dual-core processors for the digital home and office. Sixty-five percent of all Intels products in 2006 will include dual cores, he said.
Barrett invited Bert Rutan, founder of the Rutan Aircraft Factory Inc., which designed the X-Prize-winning Spaceship One, to make a pitch for better education, one of the initiatives Barrett will manage in his new role as the companys chairman. The other will be in "real" broadband in the United States, or WiMax, which will begin rolling out in 2006 and 2007. "The only limitation we set for ourselves are our own limitations," Barrett said. "You cant be afraid of failure. Failure is just one of the steps in moving forward."
Barrett also answered questions regarding the end of his tenure.
"I think the biggest observation is that we werent doing IDFs 30 years ago," Barrett said as part of a question-and-answer session with reporters after his keynote. "In the back of my mind I always thought technology would slow down a little bit. [Instead] its gone faster and faster."
In the early days of Intel the company needed to be run by technologists: material scientists, physicists and engineers, Barrett said. Today, there is more of a need for marketing, sales and developing the other aspects of the company, he said. Barretts successor, Paul Otellini, is not a technologist but understands sales and marketing, and expanding Intels brand awareness.
"CEOs of the future will likely be experts in one of them, but not experts in all of them," Barrett said.