Saturday, April 09, 2005

Intel and TI CEOs: Chips on Their Shoulders, iPods on Their Brains

Time Magazine this past week ran a good profile of Intel CEO Paul Otellini and a sidebar interview with Texas Instruments CEO Tom Engibous, both of which included interesting comments about the need for humanization of technology.

"A New Brain for Intel," gives some insight into the thinking of Otellini, the first non-engineer CEO of Intel. He's the one credited for the success of the Centrino chip for WiFi-enable laptops (I bought my last one just before Centrino came out -- drat!)

Otellini is also the one driving Intel's new strategy to align itself around more user-driven platform categories -- see my report on this initiative in "Intel's Strategy Driven by Convergence."

I think this excerpt from the Time article is quite striking in what it reveals about Otellini's thinking:

When Otellini outlines his company's new strategy, the first product he mentions is Steve Jobs' best-selling MP3 player. "What is the iPod?" Otellini asks, and his answer sounds strange from the mouth of a man with the well-manicured looks of a successful accountant. "It's my music machine, man. That's what you want. This," and here he gestures to a laptop across the conference room at Intel headquarters, "is my content machine. That [desktop] PC is my productivity machine. You have to start by thinking about the things people want to do with computers and work backward."

Yes -- The key to gaining adoption of technology is to start with people and what they want. The success of the iPod indicates a good direction to go in product development.

In "Chip Chat," the Q&A with TI CEO Engibous, he comments on the chip business, the U.S.'s widening R&D gap, and trends in the tech industry. But one of the most interesting things he says is about the education of engineers in the U.S. and how it needs to change:

In engineering, for the first three years, you're studying Maxwell's equations, thermodynamics, calculus--and you haven't got a clue why. What would be much more valuable in freshman year is to teach how an iPod works, how an airplane flies, then work backward.

Wow! Put him in charge of an engineering curriculum, and I might just go back to school!

And there's that pesky iPod again ....

AB -- 4/9/05

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