Open Letter to Brian Krzanich

May 16, 2013

Brian Krzanich
Chief Executive Officer
Intel Corporation

Dear Brian,

Congratulations on your new position.

If there is one company that can put its thumb on the scale, it’s Intel. Few companies with the resources have the will to upend conventional wisdom.

Yet Intel is failing in the biggest transformation in technology in recent memory. What is preventing Intel’s success in mobile?

Thomas Kuhn famously described major changes in scientific thinking as paradigm shifts. During a paradigm shift, cracks appear in structures of thought long thought invulnerable, conflict arises, and a new consensus emerges.

Relentless process improvement drove Intel’s success for so long that it became embedded in your thinking. That old paradigm led to Fab 42 and that thinking is preventing you from being successful in mobile.

Cracks in the current paradigm are growing: clock speed has stopped being particularly relevant. Multiple cores are no longer exclusively high end. And the x86 architecture is increasingly more obstruction than opportunity.

A natural response will be to redouble your efforts to make the old way work while simultaneously diversifying to make the old way less relevant. There is an alternative.

How about optimizing around a few large initiatives that challenge accepted thinking? These "new paradigms" could include: finding new opportunities for radical integration (Intel’s founding innovation); evaluating products solely by ops per milliwatt (an interest shared by mobile and datacenters); developing architectures embedding virtualization and remote integration; and making CPU/GPU operations fungible at a device level.

Some combination of these or other new paradigms will put Intel on a course that  substitutes that which is obvious for that which is known.

Decades from now, the environment will change again, and I can imagine someone taking on the mantle of leadership at Intel with the same fortunate opportunity you do; navigating Intel through a paradigm shift.

Regards,

Larry Zulch