As vice president and general manager of Intel Corp.’s Mobile Platforms Group, Anand Chandrasekher was the executive who led the company’s Centrino charge. Now he has a new challenge: leading Intel’s global sales organization.
Chandrasekher, now Intel’s vice president and director of sales and marketing, sat down for an interview with IDG News Service during the Computex exhibition in Taipei.
In a quiet meeting room away from the crowded show floor, he spoke about recent changes at Intel and how the company has long wooed Apple with sweet talk and microprocessors. Following is an edited transcript of the interview.
IDGNS: You came to Taipei last year with a new, shorter haircut after losing a bet with the Centrino sales team. What goals have you set for Intel’s sales team now and have you made another bet?
Chandrasekher: I’m not going to shave my head. I’ll start with that. There’s a story behind that one. It was 2003. At the time, I was launching Centrino in March. The sales conference happened in January. We believed — we being my division — that we could sell probably twice as many Centrinos than the sales organization had been willing to sign up for. We couldn’t get them to budge though. They signed up for a pretty wimpy forecast.
So I challenged them to increase their sales by 50 percent. Basically, I said if they did that I would shave my head. And they delivered. So, I did shave my head in January 2004.
The reason I won’t shave it again is because two weeks before I actually went into the sales conference I reminded my wife that I’d taken this bet. She knew about the bet. She’d sort of gotten a giggle out of it the year prior when I’d taken the bet, but she’d figured there was no way in hell these guys would go deliver and so no way was I going to get my head shaved. So, two weeks prior I said, “They delivered and I’ve got to go shave my head.”
And then she says, “You’re not kidding me? You’re not going to go do this, right?” I said, “I am. A bet’s a bet. They delivered and I’m going to go shave.” And she said, [expletive deleted] and then basically, of course, a lot of abuse about never letting me into the house again and then: “You’re never taking another bet without authorizing it with me first.” So, it’s not going to be a shave bet. There’s a new rule in the house.
Marching orders for the field team this year? Predominantly, my marching orders to them are very simple. The rules are: grow the business consistently, not erratically. And the other imperative I tell them is very simple: grow the brand.
IDGNS: How is Intel after the change in leadership from Craig Barrett to Paul Otellini?
Chandrasekher: I think the change from Craig to Paul is probably viewed as a bigger change outside Intel than it is inside Intel.
IDGNS: Does it mean anything that Paul Otellini doesn’t have an engineering background?
Chandrasekher: Come on guys, be real. Paul’s been in the company 24 years. He ran the Intel Architecture Group for 10 years, so he’s a technologist.
The fact that he’s got a bachelor’s degree in economics doesn’t mean he doesn’t know technology. People make a lot out of the fact that he doesn’t have an engineering degree and I think all of that is full of horseshit. Excuse me, I don’t mean any disrespect. I do have an engineering degree but I do not consider myself technical anymore. I’ve been out of the mainstream of designing these kinds of parts.
At his level, what he needs to be able to do is not design circuits. What he needs to be able to do is ask the questions. He needs to be able to know what questions to go ask. He knows how to do that and has demonstrated that for the last 20 years.
I’m very comfortable with the guy and obviously our board is very comfortable with the guy. I think it will be pretty seamless. Inside the company, we’ve had two CEO transitions that I’ve been a part of, Andy [Grove] to Craig, Craig to Paul. It’s been pretty smooth. Paul’s been president since 2001 and effectively even running the company since 2001.
IDGNS: How are plans coming along to support location-based services with the Pentium M?
Chandrasekher: We’ve done a lot of development on location-based services and capabilities. When you have Wi-Fi embedded into your platform, you can triangulate the location of an individual using the fact that you have Wi-Fi in your PC and you know where your access point is. That gives you two data points in terms of location. If I have a third access point which that PC can also talk to, now with those three I can triangulate your location to within 100 meters or so. Within that range of granularity, we know you can use Wi-Fi for global positioning and things like that.
We’ve done a lot of work in this area. We’ve transferred a chunk of that technology over to Microsoft and it will get incorporated into the Longhorn release. You’ll see it coming to market, but it will be in the form of the Longhorn release and that’s the path we chose to take because we’ve got to get it exposed in the marketplace and it’s got to be part of an application software package, which is not us. We do great silicon but somebody else has to do the software, so we chose Microsoft.
IDGNS: The three big makers of gaming consoles have all decided to go with different versions of the Power PC processor for their next-generation consoles. What does that mean for Intel?
Chandrasekher: We are not averse to getting a design win in the console space. What we are averse to is getting a design win at an unprofitable price point. If IBM wants to sell the Power PC processor below their cost, they can have that business. We had an opportunity to go bid on it. We did bid on it, but we didn’t think it was worth getting that business if it was going to be unprofitable for us, so we backed away. I don’t think it hurts us.
Out of three players, two weren’t ever on IA [Intel architecture] and one was on IA and has moved. So, big deal. If you look at the console business overall it’s predominantly a replacement market, not a growing market. And if you look at where the excitement is in terms of gaming, it’s in online gaming. If you look at online gaming, where is most of the online gaming happening? It’s happening on the PC.
We’re doing very fine, thank you very much, in terms of getting gaming content developed on the PC. Our job is to keep that environment fresh, exciting and moving forward. As long as we can do that, we’re happy with it. Would we like to get the consoles? Absolutely. But we’re not complaining about the fact that we’ve lost it.
IDGNS: When you made your proposal for the game consoles, was one of your existing processors part of the proposal? Or had you proposed a custom-made chip for them?
Chandrasekher: A bit of both. We would have looked at different means of meeting the needs of their environment.
IDGNS: The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Intel has been trying to get Apple to use its processors. Has Intel been talking with Apple?
Chandrasekher: We always talk to Apple. Apple is a design win that we’ve coveted for 20 years and we continue to covet them as a design win. We will never give up on Apple.
IDGNS: What would you be willing to do in order to win Apple’s business?
Chandrasekher: Well, nothing unnatural that we wouldn’t do for other design wins. It’s got to make sense from a business standpoint. We would do what makes economic sense. If we can do that and still get the design win, we’d do it.