Q&A: Fighting Words from Craig Barrett
Craig R. Barrett, CEO of Intel Corp. since March, 1998, is in the hot seat. His heralded diversification strategy has yet to deliver, and the tech downturn has pummeled his core chip business. Barrett argues that he has the right formula for returning Intel to firmer ground. The 62-year-old chief spoke with correspondent Cliff Edwards about Intel's long-term goals--and his potential legacy.
Q: How is Intel (INTC ) managing through this downturn?
A: The only way we know of to survive one of these and come out in a reasonably whole piece is to get new products, new technology--and the design wins. You go for market share, and the rest takes care of itself.
Q: There is concern that Intel's new businesses, such as chips for cell phones and networking gear, are not gaining traction. How are those efforts coming?
A: Let's be serious: A lot of people's jobs are to second-guess. We embarked on a program a couple of years ago with the following assumptions: We said the PC business was strong, would continue to be healthy, and would continue to grow--albeit at a slower rate than it had in the past. We wanted to supplement that with growth in some new areas. The areas we picked have been networking communications, wireless communications, and servers. Nothing's changed.
The PC market is still the foundation of our company. It's a difficult time for everybody, but it's still providing the fuel to transform ourselves. We're not walking away from it. We said we would invest in some areas that were exciting, had good growth potential, and I'm sure as hell glad we started that a couple of years ago and are not trying to start it today. Most of those folks who are second-guessing have never managed a company. I wouldn't trade what we've done over the past two years for their second guesses.
Q: Analysts question whether Intel tackled too many new markets at once. Did Intel take on too much?
A: It's one of those great Monday-morning quarterback deals. O.K., you had a product screwup, and why did you have a product screwup? Because you did too many things. Guilty as charged. We had product screwups. Not guilty as charged--that we can't do more than one thing at a time. We can create great products in a variety of areas. I don't accept that comment, and I understand where it comes from.
Q: Is there anything you wish you hadn't done?
A: Some of the acquisitions we made--I would have made them after the crash rather than before the crash. I still would have made them. I just would have paid less for them. We set out over the past year to refute those people who said we couldn't do more than one thing at a time. You're starting to really see the fruits of that labor. I would have moved faster: That's probably the only thing I'd take back.
Q: Why faster? Some argue that you should have moved slower.
A: Excuse me: bull___. Nobody who wins in this industry gets there by moving slower. The one thing that has been constant in this industry for 30 years has been technological advancement. He or she who moves at the head of the technology curve reaps the benefits.
Q: Has Intel misplaced its emphasis on powerful PC chips at a time when consumers appear more concerned with the speed of their Internet connection?
A: It's tough to find a 21-year-old who says: "I've got enough processing power." Frankly, it's a question I get a lot from middle-aged reporters.
Q: You have three years until you retire. What would you like your legacy to be?
A: My legacy at Intel will be, I hope, to continue moving forward as a prestigious high-tech, high-growth company.