TR: You are only the second chief technology officer in Intel’s history; Pat Gelsinger occupied the position from 2001 to 2004, then it was vacant for almost a year. Why does Intel need a CTO?
JR: That’s probably a better question for Craig Barrett [chairman of Intel’s board] and Paul Otellini [president and CEO]. But I think it really reflects the broadening of Intel’s technology agenda. In the earlier phases of the company, where we had a narrower focus on memory chips and then microprocessors, it wasn’t really necessary to have one person trying to represent and articulate the broad [technology] interests. Quite frankly, you had some of the legends running the company – Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore. They were very effective as CTOs, even though they didn’t carry the title.
I think when we were moving into the new century, the view was that the technology issues have broadened and become more complex. There are now a lot more policy-related questions and standards issues covering both computing and communications. There was a real need – almost an expectation within the industry – that there would be an individual at Intel that you could go to for that whole range of specific technology questions. There was a recognition that it was beyond the ability of the CEO or any one business group manager to cope with.
TR: What’s a concrete example of those policy and standards issues?
JR: WiMax [a standard for metropolitan-scale wireless broadband communications] is one example. The broader picture is just spectrum policy in general, and making spectrum allocation consistent on a global basis. Advocating for the different technologies at the industry level is clearly a big part of it, whether you’re talking about WiMax, wireless USB, or any of the ultrawideband technologies, or developments like multicore processing. There are any number of technology inflections coming, and Intel can’t single-handedly drive all of these major transitions. You have to enlist the industry, and I think that’s clearly on of the things the CTO, in particular, can be a focal point for.
TR: How will you tackle the areas where Intel’s been facing difficulty lately, such as delays with the introduction of your dual-core Itanium processor for servers, or the fact that desktop PCs running on AMD’s Athlon chips have been outselling PCs with the Intel Pentium 4?
JR: I think it’s really an issue of being able to put alternative technologies on the table, to give the company the options it needs to make the right decisions. It’s fine to say that we’re running out of gas on the current approaches [to chip design] and we need to make a change. It’s another thing entirely to actually look at moving from what we’re doing today to the future approaches and alternatives. Part of my responsibility is to make sure we’re putting those technology options on the table.