Intel's Barrett: "Full speed till we hit the brick wall"

Intel's Barrett: "Full speed till we hit the brick wall"

With quiet ease, Craig Barrett is slipping into the driver's seat at Intel previously vacated by Andy Grove. During a recent visit to the Philippines, Barrett spoke with a group of IDG journalists about Intel's directions, upcoming technologies, and competition in the industry. Excerpts from the question-and- answer session follow:

IDG: Which of the new technologies that you've invested in look particularly promising?

Barrett: I think a number of them are promising. There are a number which relate to bandwidth and run the gamut of investments in satellite, cable, and ADSL technology. Anything you can do to bring more bandwidth to small business.

But there's also a wide variety of other issues: rich Internet applications like streaming audio or streaming video over the Internet.

IDG: Is Intel looking at setting up a wafer fabrication plant in Singapore?

Barrett: We'll go one step at a time. We're putting in a warehouse distribution centre here, and I'd rather see that up and running before we take the next step.

Every country I go to in the world asks the same question. If I go to Poland, or the Czech Republic, or to Russia, or to Korea, they ask that question. In Malaysia, they ask that same question. We continually look around the world for the best opportunities, the best infrastructure, and the best financial opportunities.

Up until recently, the Philippines was not very competitive in this area because its basic infrastructure, particularly power, was relatively weak. But the infrastructure has improved substantially over the last five years, so you're getting more competitive.

But there are probably 160 separate countries in the world that want a wafer fab plant, and some of them are very aggressive in offering incentive packages. If you want an idea of what aggressive means, some countries will offer capital incentives that will give investors a 40 per cent rebate on their investment. So for a $US2 billion wafer fabrication facility, that would be an $US800 million incentive.

That is the sort of competitive environment being used to attract these plants. I'm only suggesting to you where you have to be to be competitive. It's not enough to say: "I have cheap electric power and I have a good workforce, and that I have a wonderful place to live."

IDG: So will Celeron kill off the Pentium MMX?

Barrett: Well, we'll be migrating everything to P6 architecture. The Celeron is a P6 architecture product, and that will take the place of the old classic Pentium or Pentium with MMX technology. We are on record as saying that by the end of this year, we'll be almost 100 per cent converted to P6 architecture. That'll be Pentium IIs, as part of that P6 architecture, and the Celeron family as another part. The area which will be a little slower to convert is the mobile space, but we're about to introduce the first P6 architecture member of the mobile computer space. The first of the Deschutes family is coming out.

IDG: What do you think of Apple's G3 chip?

Barrett: That snail? Have you seen those Apple ads? This is a Steve Jobs special, which is kind of humorous. What the Apple ad campaign is trying to present is that the latest member of the PowerPC family is much more powerful than our Pentium II family.

Through some selective benchmarking on one little benchmark that's in the corner someplace and that nobody ever uses, Apple says: "Look it's faster than the Pentium II benchmark."

It's been running full page ads with a snail moving along with a Pentium II cartridge on its back.

It has also been running TV ads with a similar theme.

Let me just give you an example. Jobs basically said that Apple has a 300MHz G3 that is available today. At the same time it he said: "And by the way, let me give you a technology demonstration of a 400MHz G3 with copper technology and show you how much faster that is than any Intel device."

A week later, Albert Yu, who heads our microprocessor design team, said at CeBIT: "Let me give you a technology demonstration of a 702MHz Pentium II, compared to a 400MHz G3 technology demonstration."

As far as I can tell, it's 302MHz behind in technology demonstrations, and if you do any reasonable benchmark comparison, the top of the line Pentium II processor blows away the G3.

Apple is in a very, very difficult time right now. Its market share is so low, it has to be below critical mass -- when you drop to 3 per cent or sub-3 per cent of the worldwide market.

Adobe, which used to be a premier Macintosh desktop publishing software company, just announced its earnings and said that 60 per cent of its revenue now comes from the Intel architecture. Only 40 per cent comes from Macs. The portion that's Macintosh based is dropping precipitously. That's an indication of the impact of Wintel systems on Apple.

So who's going to write software for the Macintosh with 3 per cent of the market and no performance advantage or probably a performance disadvantage?

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