Intel, Microsoft exhibiting dinosaur traits

Posted by Mike Magee

Opinion It was Jerry Sanders III who first coined the phrase that, together with Intel and Microsoft, AMD and the other two were the “Holy Trinity”.

Perhaps that was somewhat blasphemous but then Isaac Newton, alchemist and mathematician, always thought the very idea of a trinity was a blasphemy.

My, how the chickens are coming home to roost and the cat is amongst the pigeons.  This week, both Intel and Microsoft will file their quarterly fiducials  and it will be most interesting to see how their financials are affected by the worldwide slump in PCs. PCs – once the leading technology are being eclipsed by smartphones and tablets and both Microsoft and Intel are showing increasing signs of desperation.

As an industry veteran, I have met most of the characters in the Soap Opera that Jerry Sanders III described as the Holy Trinity.  I first met Gates in 1986 when I worked for a software company – in those pre-makeover days you really had to watch out for the dandruff.  Sanders, an ex-Fairchild employee and the founder of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) was and is something of a character – would that the industry had more like him in the 21st century.

And Andy Grove was acerbic as hell, but I did notice that if you asked him direct, almost rude questions, he did respond. Grove hated flim flam so in his retirement he must be musing about where Intel has gone wrong. Perhaps Intel should take a leaf out of TSMC’s book – bring him back like the Taiwanese Number One Foundry brought Morris Chang back.  But don’t mention Merced or the Itanic to Grove, otherwise he might fly off the handle.

Always follow the money, or in other words look at the stock prices of the “Holy Trinity”.  They have languished in the doldrums for many a year now. Gone are the heady days when stock could be split because of course these three companies are venerable antiquities and couldn’t innovate anything approaching a better mouse trap. Microsoft, of course, never innovated anything at all, had no factories, charged way too much money for its software and bullied its “partners” mercilessly.

I suppose you could describe Intel as God the Father, Microsoft as God the Son, and AMD as God the Holy Ghost because AMD has been a bit player and is rarely seen, but only sensed.

Intel and AMD both made new things and both used to have factories before Hector Ruiz sodded up the company by “spinning off” its fabs.  In a way, AMD made better stuff than Intel, which was forced to copy its lead on a host of stuff, including 64 bit chips. But AMD has always been good at shooting itself in the foot, while Intel is best when it’s got its back against a wall.

Goodness only knows what Intel thought it was doing by cannibalising its own netbook products with the dreadful Atom microprocessor. Now we learn that Microsoft is spinning the yarn that it will do a smart watch.  In an age when practically no-one under the age of 35 wears a blinking watch, it once again displays its total ineptitude.

The dinosaurs are slowly dying and it will be interesting to see how the "Holy Trinity" gets itself out of this hole it has dug for itself.