Intel recently held its Innovation conference (IntelON). This conference effectively reboots its old Intel Developer Conference (IDF). Intel faced three serious issues in bringing this conference back.
First, when the company gave IDF up, other conferences moved into that time slot. This year, Intel’s conference competed with Qualcomm and Cisco events that were being held simultaneously.
Second, ending IDF sent a signal from Intel to developers. Rebuilding a relationship is far more challenging than creating one in the first place.
Third, the predominant competitors used to be AMD and companies like Sun and IBM with their alternatives, which were either much smaller or competed with Intel’s existing customers, making switching to them unlikely. A primary competitor today is ARM, representing a different, energy-efficient technology and open-source model to potential Intel customers.
However, Intel entered the conference process with some unique advantages: Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s CEO, is well regarded in the industry and is particularly strong on relationship building. He conveys an image of someone you can trust. Intel is one of the few companies that does its manufacturing, and in a time of shortages, this means less risk than fabless companies. Intel remains the dominant vendor in PCs and servers, making the market still Intel’s to lose.
Let’s talk about some takeaways from IntelON:
Gelsinger: Right person, right time
Intel effectively made some missteps with the developer community last decade. Whereas Gelsinger, coming out of VMware, formed strong bonds with the VMware developer community during his tenure there.
That trust element played out positively for Intel during Gelsinger’s conference sessions, where he spoke to the developers and told them they are again Intel’s priority. What helped with this is that Gelsinger has generally been credited with creating IDF. And he spoke to the developers from the heart, expressing his appreciation for their critical role as he articulated an Intel “developer-first” strategy.
He came across as credible and worthy of trust, critical to changing hearts and minds.
Supply chain issues favor Intel’s manufacturing might
Supply shortages currently plague a semiconductor industry that primarily outsources manufacturing.
These shortages are partly being caused by a lack of manufacturing capacity and a lack of sufficient transport. While the transport part of the problem is outside of Intel’s control, manufacturing isn’t, and Gelsinger has promised to increase Intel’s manufacturing capability significantly. This advantage means that Intel should be strategically better able to assure shipments than companies that have outsourced manufacturing.
It doesn’t matter how honest a company is if they don’t control manufacturing, as ensuring adequate supply is outside their control. With Apple warning they are having supply chain issues after separating from Intel and news that Solarwinds hackers are back and attacking supply chain vendors, Intel’s secure manufacturing capability should, as it builds it out, make it a safe harbor for any product class that it manufactures.
In short, Intel is well positioned to get these developers back. Still, it won’t be a cakewalk as ARM, and efforts by several prominent vendors to build their processors, represent viable threats.
Moving forward with developers and in the market
IntelON set a foundation for Intel’s future. This event is part of a multi-step process to engage developers.
Their CEO, Gelsinger, is well-liked and trusted by those developers, and he promised them they’d be a priority in the future. Gelsinger believes in developers and that is clear to anyone who knows him. It is why he created IDF in the first place and why IntelON was a priority for him once he returned.
Intel is changing, embracing current concepts like open source and Linux more aggressively. Its manufacturing has an operational advantage during product shortages, and it remains well regarded, in terms of engineering competence and quality.
Intel still has to execute on its ARC graphics platform, and its efforts to increase manufacturing won’t bear fruit for some time. Intel is back, but it still has a way to go before it’s out of the woods. Next year will be a critical execution year for the company.
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