IDF - Intel CEO remains optimistic on road ahead

Craig Barrett, chief executive officer at Intel, kicked off his company's developer conference on Tuesday with a familiar message, saying ever-increasing computing power can stir growth in the currently depressed technology industry.

Barrett gave the opening keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum and used the platform to try to inject optimism into the IT industry about the years ahead. Although both business and consumer IT spending have flattened, the Intel chief remained convinced that a wide range of interconnected computing devices and new types of digital content would help jump start the industry. In particular, Barrett tried to show how computers and communications systems can work in tandem to benefit the end user.

"Despite the negative nature of the current economy, I think there are reasons to be optimistic about the future," Barrett said. "What is necessary to ignite demand will be innovation, and that innovation has to come from us."

In his travels, Barrett has seen a number of countries that continue to clamor for new technology. Whether they are looking to deliver high-speed networks into homes, create new wireless infrastructures or use software to improve efficiency, the need for and benefit of technology are clear, Barrett said.

"I have to conclude that the desire for technology is alive and well," he said. "Worldwide there is a sense of excitement going forward."

Comments such as these are typical of Intel, always looking to tempt users to replace their PCs when faster processors hit the market every few months. Intel has long been an advocate of the notion that users and software developers will always find creative ways to tap into the power of better PCs.

Despite this push, however, in the midst of a slow economy consumers have cooled on the idea of upgrading their new systems, leaving an estimated 160 million to 180 million PCs on the market that are more than three years old, Barrett said.

To help convince these users to upgrade their systems, Intel is working with computer and device makers to create tight links among home entertainment tools, business applications and communication networks. Barrett called his vision of the convergence between the television, PC and wireless devices the "three-screen" approach.

"The three screens are not in competition," he said. "They really complement each other."

In this model, the PC would be a content creation platform and TVs and wireless devices would be used to consume what was made on the PC. For example, users might use a PC to create home movies and then play those on the TV screen and even take them on the road with them to view on a wireless device, Barrett said. The same model could apply to business-related content. They key to making this process easy is writing software that can run on and adjust to various devices with little alteration to the underlying code, he said.

"Write once-run anywhere is the nirvana of the industry," he said.

Much work remains to be done before this vision is a reality, Barrett conceded. He called on the U.S. and other countries to continue building out high-speed data networks and to solve the legal questions surrounding content protection.

The IT industry needs to walk hand-in-hand with the entertainment industry to help make computing exciting for the end user once again, Barrett said.

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