What will computers empower us to do over the next 40 years?
This may seem a strange question for someone who’s just coming back from a vacation, and so lest you think I’ve taken a turn for the geek in the last days, allow me to explain.
Friday, July 18 was Intels’ 40th birthday.
I turned 40 in May.
Interesting parallel for me – the fact that Intel and I were born in the same year. I’m a bit older, actually, but I think Intel’s had a bit more work done than I have … at least so far. It’s early yet on that front.
As for why I’m writing about this now instead of back in July, let’s just say it’s more like I’m just finishing up. I started this on June 5 and have iterated quite a few times.
But now that I’ve returned from my little vacation, freshly renewed and revisiting all that is tech, I figured it was time to post. If for no other reason than to start back to work (and kick-off September) with a fresh slate.
That, and frankly after spending time at the Intel Developer Forum last week I was feeling guilty that I’d not gotten around to this …
To be honest, before getting the email heralding Intel’s big anniversary, I hadn’t given Intel’s age much thought. Kind of like my own 40th.
I opted this year for a low-key (for me) approach to my birthday – a night out at the symphony with a friend (Brahms 4th … and a superlative performance of it at that) and then a small gathering for champagne and dessert at Jardiniere’s J Lounge.
But at some point during this “heck, 40’s just another year and not a big deal” process, things shifted a bit. It didn’t become monumental but it did become a mile marker. And with that I started thinking about my evolution over the last 40 years …
What I’m doing now bears little resemblance to what I thought I’d be doing when I “grew up” but the motivation and the result are spot on. (If you ask what I thought I’d be doing … I’ll say this, Shakespeare was right, all the world is a stage…)
And I say Intel isn’t all that different – except that they may have a few more challenges to face.
I’m in an interesting position from which to comment on this. I was invited to be part of a group that Intel initiated this year called the “Intel Insiders”. Comprised by a collection of entrepreneurial/blogger/vlogger/media/communications sorts, the idea is that Intel gives us advance peeks at various projects in order to give our perspective and counsel on how to best leverage social media in those projects.
We had our first meeting at the start of the summer. It was a superb gathering, during which most all of those in the group [including some old friends: JD Lasica, Tom Foremski, Brian Solis, Chris Heuer, Christian Perry, Adriana Gasgcoine and new pals Sarah Austin, Frank Gruber (SomewhatFrank), Justine Ezarik (iJustine) and Irina Slutsky] met up at Intel’s offices for a couple of hours to talk about the program and what we’d be doing.
We met and got to speak with a passel of Intel folks including Sean Maloney – who offered some surprising statistics regarding where Intel would be putting it’s marketing budget moving forward. (Side note: he said that 80 percent of all marketing spend would move online in the next year. This is a considerable increase from their earlier statements on this.)
I had to skate out a bit early so missed the tour that resulted in this picture. But it was superb to bond with the group a bit and get a sense of what we might be doing.
That was several months ago, and to be honest we’ve not done a whole lot since then. There have been some emails but largely the program itself is still finding its legs.
But back to IDF and my thinking about Intel …
Much of the conversation at IDF surrounded, as you might guess, the announcements the company was making but I had equally as many discussions about Intel as brand and bellweather for Silicon Valley.
Here is a company deeply embedded in the Motherboard of Silicon Valley – actually, scratch that, they pretty much built the Motherboard of Silicon Valley. In any case, they are at their very core a chip company. That’s what they do. They make the stuff that sits at the heart of all those things we love – from computers to now television sets, set top boxes, cars and even a personal space flight vehicle.
But a couple of years ago, Intel made a choice. They decided that no longer did they want to be “just” that chip company. They wanted to be a consumer company.
No easy task.
I mean, most folks don’t really care what goes inside their electronics, appliances or modes of transport – they just want them to work. This isn’t too dissimilar from the challenge faced by another tech industry stalwart, Cisco.
So what’s a company to do? People’s minds and perspectives can and do change, but it takes Herculean effort and even then can be dicey.
Going back to where Intel’s path and mine seem to run parallel – as I mentioned, while the things I do day to day may not be what I’d thought years ago, the type of work I’m doing and the motivation behind it (finding ways to get myriad, diverse groups connected and talking with each other) is right on the mark. It’s taken me years of wending my way through a fascinating, if sometimes Labyrinth-like series of pathways, but at some point I internalized that which meant most to me – my core motivation if you will – and suddenly found myself square in the path of the work I’m currently doing.
Intel has taken the first steps. They have recognized that things need to change and are engaging with resources and outside voices to gain perspective. They seem to be listening to that counsel, and the next step will be for them to truly internalize and build on that new foundation.
It’s a bit like changing the wings on an airplane that’s already mid-flight across the Atlantic, but that’s a different story.
And of course there’s the issue of Moore’s Law … and whether or not Intel can maintain the increasingly breakneck pace with which the technology now accelerates.
From a personal perspective the whole time acceleration thing presents issues of its own, but as my friend Rob Hayes so kindly offered when I told him about my hitting the four decade mark in sync with Intel … “Cathy, of course you’re like Intel … you get twice as good, every 18 months.”
Here’s to hoping.
August 30, 2008 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (3)
What will computers empower us to do over the next 40 years?