Intel in Africa – A Heck Of A Fight Part I

 

Moore's law

“The number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months” – , co-Founder.

Gordon Moore’s famous 1965 observation has stood the test of an ever-changing technology industry to hold true, 47 years later.

Year after year, Intel® microprocessors have gotten faster, more efficient, more powerful, and yet more affordable … Intel remains at the forefront of Moore’s Law… next-generation 22 nanometer technology-based Intel microprocessors, in production since late 2011, are enabling never-before-seen levels of performance, capability, and energy-efficiency in a range of computing devices. (Source: INTEL)

Intel FoundersThe founders of Intel posing with a rubylith of the 8080 CPU in 1978. From left to right: Andy Grove, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore. (Image courtesy of Intel Corporation.) Read More

Doing Battle in – Who’ll Conquer Mobile?

Betting Big on African Markets

Several global technology firms have set up shop in sub-saharan Africa, and Africa in general, with many leveraging Nairobi’s budding ICT industry as their regional headquarters. Tech firms such as Nokia, IBM, Google, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Samsung and Intel are eager to capture what are known as the emerging markets: India, China, Africa and Latin America.

In 2007, Intel’s Corp Chairman said that the “world’s next 1 billion Internet consumers will come from emerging market…there is only a 2 per cent Internet penetration in Africa,leaving a huge gap…This is not only a commercial opportunity but also poses a challenge and a compelling need for companies like ours to meaningfully invest here and grow the market.” Then, Intel was spending more than $100 million in education and health projects in the developing world. (Source: Associated Press, via USA Today.)

Education: Focusing on education, health, WiMax and investments (Intel Capital – Intel’s investment arm) – social business – is part of Intel’s all-round long-term strategy to gain a firm stronghold in the market, helping it further its commercial interests for years to come. Not to mention building a loyal consumer base and brand recognition.

For example: Lower levels of education in rural areas also limit the scope for information gathering, particularly given that new ICTs such as the internet and SMS services usually require literate audiences. (Audiencescapes Kenya,Differing Communication Patterns of Rural and Urban Residents).

By focusing on education through establishing an accessible and affordable ICT foundation, Intel is preparing citizens to be effective participants in the global knowledge economy. (New Media and Development Communication).


Thus, focusing on education efforts such as providing Intel, in collaboration with the Education Trust Fund, is investing $10.1 million dollars in Nigeria to develop digital curriculum content for secondary schools. Through Intel’s World Ahead Program, the project will promote one-on-one learning through personal computers, with programs covering different subject matter areas. About 150,000 teachers will be trained and over 3,000 computers will be donated to students and schools. Teachers and students will benefit from Intel’s investment, and become trained users of their technology.

Intel’s access initatives with the competitive market also converged with the launch of the the Classmate laptop. The Classmate is a direct competitor to One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Both laptops have similar capabilities and durability, but the processor in the Classmate is made by Intel, while OLPC’s is produced by AMD, a competitor.

WiMax: A significant percentage of the population in Africa lives in areas that are rural, unserved, or underserved. These service deficiencies reflect a lack of adequate facilities for voice, video, and data communications that, if sufficiently available, could be used to satisfy consumer needs, inform the general public, and provide service training in critical areas such as education and health care. (New Media and Development Communication)

A Chat With Intel’s Executive Vice President

On that note, the iHub Nairobi hosted Intel’s Executive Vice President, David Perlmutter this week. One major takeaway from the Fireside Chat session was the importance of investing in education.

“Government must create the opportunities through investment in education. For example, Silicon valley was built around great universities,” he said. “If you try to copy Silicon Valley, you’ll fail. But put the basics of education and innovative culture…”

Perlmutter joined Intel in 1980 after graduating from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, with a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering. He also received an award for innovation in industrial development from the Israeli president in 1987 for the development of the i387 math coprocessor.

Investment  is critical to the success of innovation. On what makes Israel’s engineers so great, David attributed this to investments.  Giving Israel’s example,David also pointed out the huge role private sector investment has had in Israel. “Private sector mentors the engineers – this is huge in Israel,”  he said.

The growth of Intel Israel is closely interwoven with the evolution of the State of Israel. The Company, founded in 1974 in Haifa with five employees, today employs more than 7,800 people, in addition to indirectly impacting the employment of 23,000 workers in Israel.

While many people know of the close relationship between Israel and Intel, the depth of that relationship may come as a surprise to many: Intel Israel has been responsible for many, if not most, of the processor breakthroughs for Intel, and the Intel Sandy Bridge processor, developed in Israel, was responsible for 40 percent of Intel’s sales worldwide in 2011.

On how the 44-year old multinational semi-conductor chip maker company has maintained its status as the world’s largest and most valued semi-conductor chip maker, David attributes this to Intel’s focus on a  contrarian approach to what the big Intel was doing that led to great innovations.

David advises those in the tech eco-system to “Solve problems that are uniquely yours, and perhaps it can be bigger. A local problem may not have a US solution, for example… Instead of trying to beat other people at their game, find your game and play it well.”

“Great things are happening where you do them. Anything can be done anywhere. Focus on turning your weakness to strength,” he added.

Keeping Moore’s Law Alive

And of course, it would not have been a Fireside Chat if we would not have asked David about Moore’s Law.

“Moore’s is an economic law, and Moore himself did not intend it to live as long. The challenges of investment are in 2 areas: moving from 300mm wafer to 450mm wafer. I can predict how it would be till the end of decade, but not further. 22nm, 14nm products coming, 10nm in the pipeline… prices have gone down, but costs of development/production have gone up. Hence less investment in semiconductor industry.”

On what is exciting now, David mentioned:

  1.  Mobility. Smartphones do more computing than voice – hence should be called computers. Biggest limitation is I/O.
  2. The form that computing is going to take is really exciting, esp if I/O is fixed.
  3. Human/Computer interaction. How could humans and machines interact with each other better?

As to future plans – Intel will be working “more closely with developers all over Africa…Intel views developers as their biggest partners. People buy devices because of the apps.

*Intel has an App store, AppUp. The Intel AppUp center is a digital storefront for existing and new PC software, apps, content and entertainment, developed by Intel Corporationfor Microsoft Windows-based Ultrabook devices, netbookslaptops, and personal computers. (Wikipedia). Intel had 27,000 registered developers by 2011.

Even though the company supplies the processors for more than 80% of the PC market, it has barely even scratched the surface at bringing a solid method for software distribution to all those devices it powers.

However, Intel is excited to work with African Developers with ideas that solve local problems with a potential spin.

How did Intel manage to disrupt from inside Intel?

“Let people with good ideas to develop on the side. “Moonlight hours” have sometimes led to great innovation. This isn’t easy, and there are more failures than successes – but is worth it. Its about isolating people with good ideas and attempting to create momentum around their ideas.

Sound advice.

Intel’s Onslaught into Mobile

Intel’s processors power 80% of all desktops worldwide. Yet, Intel which dominates the processors space, recognizes that mobile is the next direction. It has gradually been repositioning itself not to get left behind in this sector, especially in emerging markets where the growth of the mobile phone , especially the smartphone, is significant. Intel continues to report slower growth in the consumer segment of mature markets, and is betting on emerging markets such as Africa where the growth of the mobile phone is expected to rise.

 

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