Page last updated at 23:11 GMT, Monday, 7 April 2008 00:11 UK

Intel 'will survive US recession'

By Rory Cellan-Jones
Technology correspondent, BBC News

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Intel Chief executive Paul Otellini answered user questions

Intel will ride out any US recession and make a success of Wimax wireless broadband, the firm's chief executive Paul Otellini has told BBC News.

He said: "People turn to computers to improve productivity during downturn, because at the end of the day the computer is a tool for productivity."

Intel is the world's largest chip maker for desktops and laptops.

Answering BBC News users' questions, he said Intel's developing world laptop was better than the OLPC scheme.

Mr Otellini was confident that Intel would not be too badly affected by any recession in the American economy: "Much of our sales growth has have been in emerging markets - India, China and Eastern Europe - and I don't see them going into recession."

But he conceded that the credit crunch was having an impact: "We had a business we spun out into a new company and the launch was held up for five months because of the credit crunch.

"And we only needed a few hundred million dollars."

Mr Otellini also strongly defended Intel's promotion of its low-cost Classmate laptop in developing countries, which was criticised after the firm pulled out of the rival One Laptop Per Child Project.

Intel Classmate laptop
Intel is pushing its Classmate as a solution to the digital divide

In response to the suggestion from OLPC's founder Nicholas Negroponte that Intel had acted in bad faith, he said: "It's hogwash. We didn't drive them out of anything, we competed fairly for the business."

Intel's Classmate has won contracts in Nigeria, where the OLPC XO computer has struggled to make progress after initial hopes.

"Ours is focused on working with teachers, OLPC is focused on 'Give the kids a laptop, turn them onto the internet and just let them go,'" said Mr Otellini.

"We happen to think the teacher model is a better model." Intel's investment in Wimax has so far failed to make much progress but Mr Otellini insisted that the technology was moving more quickly than many people realised and would achieve success more quickly than other networks standards have in the past.

For unlike Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who have built their companies in their own image, Mr Otellini has been built by Intel
BBC News Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones

"In a year from now you'll have tens of millions of subscribers - you'll move to hundreds of millions two years after that."

Intel is introducing notebook computers with Wimax chips later this year.

"We see Wimax as the most cost-effective way to deliver high-bandwidth wireless broadband."

The Intel chief executive rejected criticism that his company is a monopoly on the scale of Microsoft.

Responding to a suggestion that Intel should share information with its smaller rival AMD, Mr Otellini said: "I don't think so. A few years ago we were being criticised for being behind them."

He said nobody in the semiconductor business could be complacent: "We in this industry can never take a lead for granted, if you did you would be out of business."

Responding to a question about whether users really needed the increasingly powerful processors that Moore's Law was likely to provide, Mr Otellini said people had always questioned the need for more powerful computers, ever since the 286 chip.

"The PCs we're using today are 32 times more powerful than the ones we started with."

Wouldn't it be great to be able to speak to your computer and have it understand and act on everything you say
Paul Otellini

Mr Otellini said there were all sorts of applications that would demand greater processing power.

"For example, wouldn't it be great to be able to speak to your computer and have it understand and act on everything you say. That will take far more than 32 times the performance we have today."

He also predicted that the web would become far more immersive, with just about every device going online.

"Your automobiles, your phones, your home heating will all be connected to the web, not just to get access to information but to become much more efficient."

Asked about his personal use of technology, Mr Otellini revealed that he uses a PC at work and a Mac at home, "for my photos".

Paul Otellini
Paul Otellini has worked at Intel for 34 years

Intel only started supplying Apple with processors two years ago and Mr Otellini said he had enjoyed getting to grips with a Mac.

He also revealed that he felt uncomfortable being away from the internet even for a short time, because he needed to check email via a Blackberry or a laptop at all hours.

"I'm 24/7... e-mail is the way we run the company."

So is he an internet addict?

"Maybe all addicts say they're not - but it's just my choice at the end of the day."

Asked what he considered the highlight of his career, Paul Otellini said: "I've been at a company for 34 years that has changed the world inside the time frame of my career and I've had something to do with that.

"Where would the world be without what Intel has built?"




video and audio news
Full interview: Intel's Chief Executive answers BBC News website readers' questions



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