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1/29/2004
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Intel CEO Barrett recognizes his company's influence in an evolving world

After 30 years in the technology business, Intel CEO Craig Barrett has seen more than his share of ups and downs. Still, something about the growing convergence of communications devices and business technology has the 64-year-old San Francisco native feeling optimistic about the coming year.

"This is my 10th recession," Barrett says. "Things always get better eventually, so you just wait for it."

Of course, Barrett and his management team are hardly the type to wait around for things to get better. This year, the company plans to invest $200 million in emerging companies developing technologies that will let people access music, photos, and other digital content throughout their homes on computers, stereos, televisions, and handheld devices. And last year, the company's Intel Capital investment arm doled out hundreds of millions of dollars to companies such as DRAM makers Micron Technology Inc. and Elpida Memory Inc., which make technology that complements Intel's.


Craig Barrett

Barrett calls education "the most important gift" for children

Photo by Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters
Barrett, who last year received an honorary doctoral degree from the National Taras Shevchenko University of Kiev for his contributions to the world of information technology, has two primary goals as Intel's top executive: He wants to push his ideal of computing and communications integration even further, and he wants his company to expand its global presence.

Casting his gaze out a decade or more, Barrett sees a time when technology shrinks to the size where doctors can combine computers, sensors, and communications into devices that perform real-time analysis of the human body on a molecular level. "Ten years ago, we were in the computer business," he says. "Today, we're kind of in the Internet business. Ten years from today, we'll be doing some very interesting things in the health sciences."

Barrett knows the world is changing, and he and his company are playing no small role in that. One issue that causes him concern is balancing his global business perspective with the lack of jobs being created in the United States. "We're seeing competition for jobs portrayed as 'offshore outsourcing' or other terrible terms," he says. "In my mind, most people aren't looking at it in the greater picture of 'Golly gee, you opened up all these economies by investing there.'"

As CEO of a major international company, Barrett came to the conclusion long ago that he has to make the best use of the best resources wherever they are in the world. Still, he has his reservations. "As a U.S. citizen, am I concerned about jobless recovery and high-valued jobs moving out of the United States? Absolutely," he says.

The strained economy of the past few years has made restructuring investments important. This sometimes translates into a company taking funding and staff out of established markets such as the United States and Western Europe and investing them where business is growing fastest--in emerging markets. "We haven't grown head count in the last couple of years," Barrett says. "But what we've been doing is shifting it around to put resources into areas of higher return."

One of the biggest global issues for this year and beyond is competition among countries for jobs, and Barrett sees countries such as China, India, and Russia emerging as players in the world's economic infrastructure. "This has created a semi-cataclysmic event that happens only once," he says. "All of a sudden, you pull in 3 billion new workers whose standards of living are substantially low but whose education level is high." This means there's a large pool of international talent available at a lower cost than in the United States. Throw in instantaneous communication and a fiber-optic grid, and information becomes available immediately anywhere in the world. Says Barrett, "It doesn't make any difference whether you sit in New York City or in Panang, Malaysia."

Under Barrett's leadership, Intel has tried to play a large role in cultivating the next generation of technology leaders through scholarships and science talent-search competitions. "My wife and I think that education is the most important gift you can give to any child," he says. "We center our philanthropic activities primarily on education. We both were fortunate to have scholarship assistance in our university studies, and we want to make sure that we give others the same opportunity we received."

When Barrett needs a break from these mind-bending global issues, he likes to spend time fly-fishing for salmon, trout, or bonefish. "Whether it's a Montana stream near our ranch or as far away as New Zealand, that's the greatest way to relax and refresh my brain," he says. "You absolutely can't fly-fish and think about work."

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