Intel Teed-Up for the Future

Interview: Looking toward an era of increased IT spending, Intel CEO Craig Barrett salutes the Itanium's progress and explains the chip manufacturer's road map, which includes five generations of microprocessors.

As Intel Corp. prepares to ship 90-nanometer microprocessors by years end, Intel Corp. CEO Craig Barrett is already looking ahead to 2004 and an era of increased IT spending. Buoyed by a generally favorable third quarter, Barrett assessed the progress of his companys Itanium processor thus far and explained Intels long-term strategy to eWEEK Executive Editor Stan Gibson and Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist at this weeks Gartner Symposium/IT Expo in Orlando, Fla.

Are you satisfied with Itaniums progress?

Im getting happier all the time.

Do you wish you were happier?

No matter which product you ask me about, I wish I were happier. Thats a positive comment about Itanium, in terms of adoption and software solution support, which have always been critical for the product. What were able to do from a raw performance standpoint is effectively second to none. If you look at price/performance, its clearly the winner. If you look at the movement of the product from high-performance computing to enterprise systems, were happy with the progress were making. The trend is positive.

With its transitional strategy to 64-bit computing, AMD [Advanced Micro Devices Inc.] seems to have captured a certain amount of mindshare that has heretofore eluded it. Do you look over your shoulder at all at AMD?

Only the paranoid survive. We have taken competition with AMD seriously for the last 25 years, and nothing has changed. And by the way, back when we were seeing who could introduce a gigahertz [processor] first, you were giving them just as much coverage, so this is not the first time they have had mindshare. There is a very healthy competitive environment between the two of us.

The [AMD and Intel] products are significantly different. Itanium is an enterprise product. I dont think that even AMD would say that the Athlon 64 Opteron is an enterprise-level product. I think they would position it in the entry-level server or workstation market. So I dont see that as clear competition. Maybe there is competition in high-performance multiprocessor systems. However, Itanium does a very good job there against anything thats in the market.

So, are you leaving a niche to AMD?

It depends on what the marketplace wants and needs in that space. We are not flying deaf and dumb. We do listen to the marketplace.

We have a 32-bit offering with hyperthreading thats very competitive in the marketplace. Whatever AMD is producing has some segment of the market. Theyll come in and undersell us by 25 or 50 percent, so they capture a part of a very price sensitive marketplace. Are we leaving that exposed? I guess we are.

There is not a desktop OS that really takes advantage of that 64-bit stuff today. If the marketplace expresses a demand for that then well look at it carefully and decide what our next move is. We havent been asleep at the switch on this. Our strategy is to meet what the market needs.

The competition with AMD does get testy at times. Hector Ruiz has used the term "bribing" to describe your wooing of OEMs.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead eWEEKs interview with AMDs Ruiz.

Lets be very critical here. The conversation and competition gets testy from their side. I dont think you ever hear Intel executives or employees badmouthing AMD or accusing them of malicious intent or unfair practices of any sort.

If Hector has anything more than accusations, there are appropriate channels to which he can take his evidence supporting those accusations. The FTC has looked studiously at Intel a couple of times and has said it has found nothing that we do violates the ethics or laws of our business.

Next page: Intel lets products speak for themselves.