On December 1, Intel’s board of directors named longtime Intel insider Justin Rattner as the company’s new chief technology officer – and only the second CTO in Intel’s history.
Even before his elevation, Rattner, 57, made frequent public appearances on Intel’s behalf (including a presentation at Technology Review’s Emerging Technology Conference in September 2005). Indeed, he’s widely viewed as the company’s most charismatic geek, with an infectious enthusiasm for Intel technology that earns him comparisons to Apple’s Steve Jobs.
Rattner will need every ounce of that enthusiasm to carry Intel through the next few years, as it attempts to replicate the success of its Centrino wireless initiative and transform itself from a maker of computer components into a “platforms” company that markets entire packages of computing and communications technologies for homes and businesses (see “Intel’s Centrino Solution,” February 2005). And Rattner’s charisma will certainly be tested as Intel herds together companies around emerging computing and communications standards such as WiMax, expands into new markets in the developing world, and coordinates its R&D efforts with business units, as the company plans for its next generation of microprocessors.
Rattner, who joined Intel in 1973, is one of just 10 Senior Fellows at the company, an honor given in 2002 in recognition of his work on high-performance computing, especially distributed and cluster computing. He has led Intel’s research operations since a major reorganization of the company in January 2005. Technology Review’s Web editor, Wade Roush, spoke with Rattner on December 1.
Technology Review: Before your appointment as chief technology officer, you were already the director of Intel’s corporate technology group, where you led Intel Research as well as the company’s microprocessor and communications systems labs. Will you keep that position? How will your job change now that you’re CTO?
Justin Rattner: I’m going to continue to lead the corporate technology group. I’ve been doing a lot of the “external interface” things for Intel, working with CTOs of all the leading companies and being part of the public presence for Intel technology, and that’s certain to expand. But I think more of the change will be less visible.
I’ll have to do more to balance the longer-term research interests of the corporate technology group with the broader business interests of the company. I’ll be more concerned about the technology decisions taking place over the near term than I would normally be in the corporate technology group. So we’re talking about me being greater public presence and taking a broader look, and being perhaps the conscience of the company in terms of technology choices.