Intel’s new CEO Brian Krzanich brought his “A” game to San Francisco this week when he presented Intel’s current and coming products at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF). Close by, Apple was doing its launch of two phones, a payment service, and the long-anticipated smartwatch. I thought there was more magic at the Intel event than at Apple’s. This is important. While Apple’s execution is important to Apple and those that use its products, Intel’s technology cuts a broad swath through the technology industry and when it executes, it increases the capability of all of the vendors that use it, including HP, VCE, EMC, Lenovo and Dell. Intel also takes the big picture, working on technologies ranging from robotics, to high-speed networking and storage, to wireless power. In short, when Intel executes, it benefits the entire industry, and it executed very well this week. Meanwhile, Apple still doesn’t seem to have the magic.
Why Magic Is Important
What Steve Jobs brought to Apple was imagination. He got us to see through the technology to what could be done with it and captured not only the imaginations of users but the imaginations of developers. That created success that raised Apple up from a company that was struggling to survive to a firm that was the most valuable in the world. Tim Cook, while competent, isn’t a magician and doesn’t seem to understand why magic is important. He’s more of an engineer than a marketer.
During the Intel keynote, we heard about several technology advancements that I think crossed over into magic, both in their capability and how they were presented. The most obvious was a new Dell Venue tablet, which was magically presented.
What Krzanich did was hold up an ugly, thick tablet in a 10” form factor with an 8” screen and talk about the incredible camera it had, that allowed you to change the depth of field after you took the picture (similar to the Lytro in capability) using three lenses. I’m sure most of us thought, “neat camera,” but who’d buy that piece of junk? After getting our interest in the camera, he broke the case, which was fake, and pulled out a 6mm thin, 8” tablet by Dell that was arguably the most attractive tablet I’ve yet seen. It will be in the market in November. He transformed an ugly duckling product into a swan and the audience ate it up.
One of the big problems with tablets and phones is that their capability is increasingly limited by their screen size. What if you could wirelessly and instantly push high-resolution images to a larger monitor and equally easily connect a keyboard and mouse to transform that phone into a decent PC? You see, with Intel technology, you get to the PC apps and Bluetooth gets you to a keyboard and mouse, but an Ultra HD display consumes too much bandwidth for Bluetooth. Intel announced a gigabit wireless connection, which will push Ultra HD and could be almost instantly set up.
The Holy Grail, though, is wireless power, and here Intel really knocked my socks off. It showcased a new implementation of inductive power delivery that would work up to 12 inches away and through materials like wood (so it could be installed under existing desks), and would power everything from headsets to PCs simply by setting them down on the desktop or conference table within the charging field. You’d never really need to carry a charging brick again if this technology moved broadly, and it is backed by a huge number of partner companies suggesting that, in a few short years, this technology could be nearly everyplace.
Wrapping Up: Un-Intel
I used to do the speaker reviews for IDF but I think they found me too harsh. Often, the speakers clearly weren’t well rehearsed and tended to stumble through their presentations, largely because these presentations were being changed up until the speakers had to be on stage. This year was very different. Krzanich was well rehearsed, looked natural on stage, and presented in a way that reminded me just a bit of Jobs. When a CEO does this, he honors both the audience and the employees who worked so hard to put the event together, telling them subtly that he, or she, is willing to work as hard as they did to pull it off. Doing this well is very un-Intel, but I think a necessary change if the firm is to return to former glory. Krzanich stepped up and delivered. What was presented indicates he is doing the same thing for Intel as CEO, so the future for the firm and those connected to Intel’s various platforms is suddenly brighter than it has been for a long time. Intel’s financial performance showcases this.
Overall, that’s pretty impressive and bodes well for the Industry based on Intel’s technology.
Rob Enderle is President and Principal Analyst of the Enderle Group, a forward-looking emerging technology advisory firm. With over 30 years’ experience in emerging technologies, he has provided regional and global companies with guidance in how to better target customer needs; create new business opportunities; anticipate technology changes; select vendors and products; and present their products in the best possible light. Rob covers the technology industry broadly. Before founding the Enderle Group, Rob was the Senior Research Fellow for Forrester Research and the Giga Information Group, and held senior positions at IBM and ROLM. Follow Rob on Twitter @enderle, on Facebook and on Google+