5 Reasons Intel Is The New England Patriots Of High-Tech2:23 PM EST Wed. Nov. 21, 2007
Boston is experiencing a Golden Age of Sports that few cities have ever seen. And the Bay Area is its high-tech equivalent.
Consider the parallels: Palo Alto's Hewlett-Packard, the Red Sox of technology, finally surpassed IBM, the (Armonk) New York Yankees, as the company everybody else is trying to catch. The only difference is that most people still seem to like HP. In software, computing's basketball (it peaked in the 1990s and doesn't get halfway interesting until the first service pack), Redwood City's M&A-crazy Oracle is the Celtics, trying to buy its way to the top. Meanwhile, Microsoft is the Lakers, a storied franchise unsure about its future and trying to unload Vista (Kobe Bryant) on an unwilling market.
How far can we take this analogy? The Bruins are Boston's forgotten team, so what's the Silicon Valley equivalent? We'll nominate Sun, though we're open to suggestions. But never mind all that. The reason we're here is to make the case that Intel is the New England Patriots of technology. Here's why:
1. Accused of cheating, Intel is out for blood. Ever since Bill Belichick and the Patriots got fined for filming the Jets' defensive signs in the first game of the NFL season, the coach and his team have been on a mission to not just beat opponents but to crush them. Similarly, Intel has been the subject of numerous anti-trust inquiries and proceedings throughout Europe, Asia and the U.S. in recent months. How has the chip giant responded? By flipping the bird at regulators with various moves that seem to say, "You think we're a monopoly? We'll show you a monopoly!"
Take last week's release of Intel's first 45nm desktop processor, a Core 2 Quad Extreme chip for high-end gaming systems. Intel didn't let Nvidia in on the plan, meaning the biggest independent graphics house won't have chipsets that play nice with the new CPU for at least a month. That would seem to give Intel's other main rival, AMD, a leg up for at least a little while but guess what? Like the Patriots, Intel doesn't care. It's Intel against the world. Everybody's the enemy at this point.
2. Intel follows a higher law than its rivals. Any season that doesn't end with the Vince Lombardi trophy is a failed one for the Patriots. This year, they're shooting for an even loftier goal -- an unbeaten season to eclipse that of the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Intel's got higher laws of its own, and in fact it's been sticking to them for a lot longer than the Pats.
There's Chipzilla's relentless pursuit of Moore's Law, for starters. It just got re-booted by Intel's game-saving move to the high-k metal gate process, and now the chip giant's adherence to its founder's vision looks to be a go for many years to come. Sort of like how the Patriots improbably landed at least a top five pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, courtesy of some slick, prescient draft-day dealing with the freefalling San Francisco 49ers.
Then there's Intel's commitment to beating all comers in all aspects of the chip game. Sure, there's the occasional setback as an Indianapolis (AMD) or a Pittsburgh (Nvidia) grabs a few headlines. But that just motivates Intel to come back stronger and establish its dynasty, once and for all.
Next: Otellini As Belichick?
3. Paul Otellini won't shake hands with Hector Ruiz. Maybe it's a bit of a stretch to compare the mild-mannered Intel CEO with the bellicose Belichick. (It's less of one to measure the brainy Ruiz against the brainy Tony Dungy.) Still, while Intel's rivals take every opportunity to snipe at the silicon behemoth, Chipzilla executives generally act as if their competitors barely even exist.
Nor does it matter what the score is -- like the Patriots, Intel's going for it. Hey, right now they're up about 80-20 in market share to a battered AMD in the middle of the fourth quarter. Think Intel's about to rest its starters? Think again.
4. Love 'em or hate 'em, Intel puts on a show. You can't turn the channel when the Pats are playing, no matter how much it hurts to watch some other town's team doing so well. Football fans know parity's best for everybody in the long run. But we still can't help but marvel at a squad that's been this dominant, for this long.
It's the same deal in technology. The market, the system builder channel, the consumer -- we all know that we'd be better served if Intel had more competition. That's the theory, anyway. But when the rubber hits the road, we're still lining up to buy what Intel's selling. As much as it sometimes hurts.
5. Intel builds from within, rather than going after free agents. New England's past three champion teams were built almost entirely through the draft -- Tom Brady, the offensive line, the punishing defense, all home-grown. By the same token, Intel hasn't been on a buying binge since the late 1990s, relying instead on its own ridiculously abundant resources to drive the cutting edge of technology.
Of course, this season's Pats team is different. For the first time under Belichick's watch, New England went out and hit the free agent market hard, scooping up the likes of Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Adalius Thomas. Which leads us to wonder if the comparison will hold in that department, too. Could Intel be on the verge of a massive buying spree? Nvidia, anybody? VIA? How about a firmware company?
Because if we thought Chipzilla was absolutely loaded with weapons now, think of the possibilities.