D3: Paul Otellini Flumoxed

Walt Mossberg is talking to Intel’s Paul Otellini. Otellini is a very dull speaker. But Walt suffers from a kind of monomania which isn’t helping matters much. For the last two days, Walt has been on a kick about viruses…

May 24, 2005

Walt Mossberg is talking to Intel’s Paul Otellini. Otellini is a very dull speaker. But Walt suffers from a kind of monomania which isn’t helping matters much. For the last two days, Walt has been on a kick about viruses and computer security. He’s giving Otellini a hard time: “Today, May 24th, why shouldn’t I go out an buy a Mac–which has no known viruses?” Otellini answers, “There’s nothing architecturally to prevent some one from hacking a Mac.” Walt replies, “Sez you”–or words to that effect. He won’t let it go: “The Mac’s market share is growing 3 to 5 times that of the general market. Surely that’s got a little to do with your failure to fix the virus problem. Why can’t companies as wealthy as Microsoft and Intel do something?” Otellini replies, “Well, we’re trying.” Walt concludes this little exchange by sniping, “Well, there are some people who would like you to do it in their lifetimes.”

Otellini is slightly more convincing about Intel and cell phones. Intel wants to help create cell phones that are capable of processing more MIPs–thus allowing a new category of applications like television, music, and other forms of entertainment. Otellini talks about how Koreans and Europeans already have cell phones with video content. “It’s very American, and very 2005, to think that the most cell phones can do is voice and email.” He explains how it is obviously in the interests of the carriers to promote new kinds of applications–because they increase “APPUs” (or average price per unit).

Finally, Otellini shows off a number of “concept computers”–many of them designed for emerging markets like China. They are genuinely intriguing, but Walt sours the mood by remarking, “Why are the concepts that Intel shows off always less cool than the products the Original Equipment Manufacturers develop?” As with the exchange about viruses, Otellini is a little flumoxed. What can the poor man say?

It has been some years since I have attended events like D3, but I am struck by the depth of feeling against Intel and Microsoft. The emotions of technologists are more vindictive than ever. I wonder why? Neither company has done anything newly awful, and both are arguably less important than they once were.