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Intel looks beyond chips to next big computing experience

Sharon Gaudin | Oct. 12, 2010
CTO Justin Rattner sees a bright future in 'context-aware devices'

FRAMINGHAM, 11 OCTOBER 2010 - Executives at Intel , the world's largest chip maker, are rethinking the way they pick technologies to develop -- and they're looking at ideas beyond the computer chip . It's a big step for a company that has made its fame by focusing on processors. In recent months, Intel has announced that it's buying security software company McAfee for $7.68 billion and Infineon's wireless chip unit for $1.4 billion. With these acquisitions, the company is getting into the security business -- and giving itself a better footing in the mobile computing market.

In an interview with Computerworld, Intel CTO Justin Rattner talked about taking Intel in a new direction, coming up with the idea for Google TV and the future of tablets and netbooks . Excerpts from that interview follow:

It sounds like you're making some major shifts inside Intel. What's going on? The commitment to chips is still there. For most of Intel's history, we were driven by what could be done instead of what should be done. A few developments at Intel caused us to rethink the company.

OK, so what caused this rethinking? It was our work on smart TV; emerging markets and the Classmate, and our work in digital health.... All three are driven by how people relate to the technology. For instance, how do kids feel about technology? What do they like? What do they not like? How do you make it fit? Instead of putting a PC down in front of them and saying, 'Look, it's Windows 7 .' We wanted to see what they need.

So are you rethinking the way you decide what technologies are developed? I think very much so. We've seen that it's no longer the best technology that prevails in the marketplace. It's not the camera or the number of pixels or megabytes of memory. It's if I enjoy the device or am I constantly at odds with my device.

But why move beyond chips The company wants to grow beyond the PC business. As we move out into areas like phones and TV and health, we're not so constrained. We developed a smart TV design. We had a specific experience in mind and then built the silicon for the experience.

Are you saying that Intel came up with the idea for Google TV? Intel designed the Google TV experience and took it to Google. Google said that's not the experience we've been thinking about, but that's the silicon we need. By thinking of the experience, it affects the building of the silicon. We actually know the experience we're trying to create and then we build the right silicon.


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