Analysis: Intel partners with Will.i.am to create a new computing future

Posted by ROB ENDERLE

At Intel’s global sales meeting this week Will.i.am, who clearly gets points for creative naming, was confirmed as the Director of Creative Innovation.



This follows a trend where increasingly, OEMs like Dell and HP have started to focus on music and entertainment as a way to drive excitement back into the PC space.  

Evidently this relationship was a long time in coming and I was fortunate enough to be on another stage at this event when the news broke so got a little of the back story.

Analysis: Intel partners with Will.i.am to create a new computing futureBringing in a technology fan

According to the folks at Intel Will.i.am has been trying to engage the company for several years and has a personal fascination with technology.  

He recognized early on that if it could be more effectively applied to the creation process, both audio and video, that entertainers could start to do things that have not yet been attempted.    



Apparently, after coming up with several excellent suggestions Intel’s top brass thought it would be interesting to formalize the relationship and have one of the top creative entertainers formally have a role in Intel’s marketing, and product creation process.  


Advocacy at it’s heart

At the core of this effort is clearly the desire to have a very visible advocate for Intel’s technology but more than just your typical spokesman Intel has crafted a real role for Will.i.am.   



However, as an outsider in what is a new job typically you’d expect him to have little impact - but as an engaged advocate he will represent the voice of the customer in a company that is typically starved for that voice.  


In short, this time, and this is very unusual, advocacy works both ways it not only creates a risk if Intel ignores his advice but it puts a power behind his words that most other executives simply won’t have.   



When he speaks the powers at Intel will listen and, should they not, he could very well use his visibility to remind them just how powerful outside the company he is.  

This represents a significant risk for Intel in terms of control but it could also represent directions in consumer electronics that they otherwise would not have taken. 

And this all comes at a time when ARM is rising up to challenge their market position with cool consumer products like tablets and smartphones.

Unlocking the Creative Professional

Intel is a bellwether, what they do others will likely emulate (especially if it looks to be working), the end result could very well be a trend to bring very creative and powerfully influential stars into the product creation process.    



If you think of Steve Jobs being one of the few truly creative people that made it to the top of a company and that it is creativity that had a major part in Apple’s success, it may be possible to blend the creative talent of the right professional into a firm’s executive culture and emulate more of the kind of success Steve Jobs created than has so far been demonstrated.


Given this is Intel, this may only be the beginning and we may start to see other entertainers brought in to fill similar roles and that could dramatically change how products are created, marketed, and how excited we get about them. 

Wrapping Up: Word of Caution

Like any effort this one is not about risks and often entertainers, like some top executives, don’t know the difference between a good idea and a really bad one.    



The often tend to surround themselves with people that say what they want to hear not what they need to know and can be hell to deal with.  



Will.i.am has a reputation for not being one of these problematic folks and does have a deep love for technology but picking a Prima donna for a role like this could be catastrophic and, you watch, someone will likely make that mistake and regret it.  



On the other hand, for Intel, this was an incredibly gutsy move and made at the time they really need to stand up above the noise and get people talking about what they are doing. This announcement kind of did that but it is only the beginning. Wait until you see what results.

Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently, he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.