The king of microprocessors, Intel, has been in something of a funk lately. On balance, this is not such bad news.
Manufacturing problems delayed its launch of some new chips, and some projects have been derailed. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley rival Advanced Micro Devices has taken a lead in several areas, challenging Intel’s once-absolute primacy.
Intel’s problems are surely upsetting to shareholders, but the overall situation is more positive for buyers and users of technology. There’s more genuine competition today for the world’s biggest chip maker than at any time in recent memory, and customers are the winners.
Intel’s mistakes are surprising, given the Santa Clara company’s well-earned status as one of the globe’s premier manufacturers. Quality control has clearly slipped, however. In July, the company’s chief executive, Craig Barrett, scolded employees. In early September, Intel slashed its sales forecast for the current quarter because of weak demand for chips.
At last week’s Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, Paul Otellini, the company’s president and heir apparent to Barrett, put the best face on the situation. But he didn’t offer any major reason to think that the near-term financial outlook would improve much.
Even great companies make missteps. The test is in how they recover, and there’s not much doubt that Intel has the talent and capacity to remain a dominant player in the crucial marketplace for computer chips.
But not too dominant, we must hope. I’d hate to return to the old days of one company’s near-total control over the microprocessor industry.