The Intel CES Slide: We are idea free

Posted by Emory Kale
You can sum up Intel's strategy in a few choice phrases: we can be ARM, too; we will build anything now; we are a conflict material free company; we don't know how to make wearables wearable; McAfee is kind of embarrassing so we're dropping the name, finally.
 
At CES , Intel's CEO, Brian Krzanich, had the keynote address and a shot at defining the company going forward in his own image. He underwhelmed.
 
The results are a bit of a mess. First, Krzanich jumped on the whole wearable computing thing to an extent that may make great headlines, but doesn't sound much like a world beating strategy.
 
 
Obviously, Intel-developed designs for wearable devices - including smart earbuds with biometric and fitness capabilities, an always-on smart headset that integrates with existing personal assistant technologies, and a smart wireless charging bowl - are all cool, and whatever, but the market is a little saturated with hype and wannabes that it is hard to see where Intel truly differentiates. This is not the business Intel knows and surely, it's manufacturing prowess is not going to be a game changer here in light of what it takes for any of its other competitors to jump in and do likewise.
 
To that end, Krzanich announced a strategic collaboration with luxury retailer Barneys New York, the Council of Fashion Designers of America and international design house and curator Opening Ceremony to, I guess, push for better looking wearables. In other words, Intel is saying, we love wearables, but they are so darn ugly that we can't imagine anyone wanting to wear them so, we will cozy up to people who have no clue about technology and hope that it all works out.
 
In addition, Krzanich, on the same tack, debuted Edison, an Intel Quark technology-based computer housed in an SD card form factor with built-in wireless capabilities and support for multiple operating systems. The technology is backed by a "call to  innovation" and a campaign "Make It Wearable," an attempt to attract designers and entrepreneurs to Intel as the source of devices for their wearable products. 
 
It's kind of like what Intel used to do with games companies to promote its high-end processors, for example, seeding console developers with their PCs to push for higher performance games on its platform.
 
There was a wow factor.
 
Now, Intel is hoping that it can push out wearable reference designs in the hopes of getting a new bevy of activity around its platform, even though this platform is going to have a lot less margin for error. With the PC, at least, Intel stood to make billions of dollars in profits. With this stuff, not so much by a long way.
 
On a happier note, the newly minted CEO unveiled the Intel Security brand, which will be used to identify all Intel security products and services, and said that McAfee products will transition to the Intel Security brand over time. McAfee, you crazy loon, we can't keep your name on this stuff, says Intel. McAfee is ecstatic because even he is smart enough to realize that his personal brand is being diminished by the Intel brand and he is not going to be able to be the babe magnet that he is if the ladies think he has Intel Inside.
 
And, just to make sure, Krzanich also unveiled its dual OS microprocessors supporting both Windows and Android thereby assuring that the cluelessness of its strategy comes across as something much cooler.
 
 
This is about as sucky a strategy as Intel could have unveiled. No substance. No real idea of what the future of the company is in a post-PC era. And, as for mobile, Intel is about lost as it has ever been so, no one is going to be buy this wearable thing as being material to the success of the company in the future.
 
Qualcomm and ARM are probably at the slots and Blackjack tables right now at CES because they are feeling lucky.
 
Oh yeah, there was also something about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), too:
The DRC has been plagued for years by regional conflict. According to a report to the United Nations Security Council Committee, a source of funding violence for armed groups includes the trade of mineral products from the DRC. Some of these so-called "conflict minerals" are in many kinds of products, including electronics.
 
Intel has implemented a process within its supply chain organization to validate that its sources – the smelters that provide tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold used in microprocessor silicon and packages manufactured in Intel factories – are not inadvertently funding this conflict in the DRC. Krzanich challenged the entire electronics industry to join Intel in its efforts.
 
That's nice, I guess.