Twenty years ago people cared about the specifications of their computers and chip maker Intel led the industry with its marketing of 486, Pentiums, Pentium Duos and Pentium IIs.
As we come to the end of the PC era, the consumerisation of technology and the rise of cloud computing mean customers no longer care about what’s inside their systems and Intel is struggling to find a new message.
Over the last few months Intel have been showing off their latest range of Central Processing Units (CPUs) to enterprise and small to medium business (SMB) groups. Last week the company hosted an SMB event in Sydney that illustrated how Intel is struggling to cut through the market.
Speaking at the event was Steph Hinds – an evangelist for cloud computing – who told the story of how her Growthwise accounting practice was flooding out during storms.
Because her systems were on the cloud Steph and her staff were able to work from home and local cafes while the landlord fixed her offices. Had Growthwise been using a server based system the business would have been crippled while her IT people implemented a disaster recovery plan.
Steph’s story in itself illustrated the Clean, Well Lighted Place argument for cloud computing and also showed how Intel is struggling to sell its PC and server upgrade cycle message in an era where that business model is dead.
This didn’t stop some of the other speakers at the small business event trying to sell the idea that upgrading computer systems and retaining an IT support company were essential to small business success but it’s a message that was valid a decade ago.
For Intel the challenge is to find a new message – it may well be that the company’s future lies in supplying the powerful CPUs that run data centres, or maybe the low energy and maintenance chips required to control the billions of intelligent devices that will run the internet of everything.
The company’s launch of their Galileo board – a tiny computer designed to compete in the intelligent devices market with the likes of the Raspberry Pi – is a step in the latter direction and shows Intel is exploring the possibilities.
Wherever Intel’s future lies, it doesn’t lie in trying to sell a business model that is quickly going the way of the Brontosaurus.
During most of the PC era, it was the Wintel partnership that dominated the computer industry, now Microsoft have realised this fundamental market change and started their journey to become a devices and services company.
The challenge now lies with Intel to decide where their journey will take them in a post PC world.