IDF Spring 2007 – Day Zero – Research at Intel

Intel CTO Justin Rattner launches the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing by explaining the Importance of Being a Researcher.

The Intel Developer Forum is an event that brings together technologists, analysts and journalist from around the world. Normally held in San Francisco, this time round, it’s the turn of Beijing, and so, 5,000 miles later, here I am. Just recently, Intel announced that it is to build a 300mm wafer fab in Dalian, China and with the Olympics coming here next year this part of the world is enjoying a bit of a buzz.

Proceedings were started by CTO Justin Rattner, who observed that this was the largest IDF ever held outside of the US. His opening theme was to describe what he called Intel’s ‘culture of innovation’. Large, successful companies often have a tendency to stagnate over time. To combat this Rattner described Intel has a having a ‘fundamental tension’ to deal with this creeping threat. Its recent history is a clear example of this, as by the time it reached Pentium 4 its successful Pentium architecture started to go awry. One also can’t discount the importance of AMD in keeping Intel on its toes, a fact of which it is acutely aware. As Andy Grove famously proclaimed,’ Only the Paranoid Survive’.

The method that Intel ensures it stays ahead is through research and development. Intel focuses on high-risk but high-reward innovations to keep it ahead. While some companies only look to the relative short term, Intel is always looking to the long term, with some real blue sky thinking, though of course it has the financial clout to engage in this. An example of this was the revelation by Rattner that Intel is working on Wimax 2 and Wimax 3 standards, even while we wait for Wimax version one to finally appear in the market. I expect to updates on the progress of Wimax over the next couple of days.

Rattner explained that Intel is keen to engage with the wider research communities and universities. He was keen to point out though that all of this research does lead to real products in the marketplace, pointing out that technologies such as Active Management and Virtualisation started off as long time research project, something worth emphasising considering that Wimax is now long talked about but much delayed.

Furthermore, Rattner stated that Intel saw itself as playing an important role in creation of DRM standards, though of course right now there’s a move away from DRM such as EMI and Apple’s recent announcement.

Rattner finished off by stating that Intel sees itself as having to deal with future tech challenges. Its mission is to reduce power drain by a factor of ten while increasing performance by at least the same amount or preferably 100x. Of course it’s easy to pull fanciful numbers out of the air, but Intel does have a history or actually delivering, with its current Core 2 architecture a powerful case in point. If the thought of what we could be done with super low power, ultra-high performance multi-core processors doesn’t get you excited, then trust me – it should.

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