Even companies responsible for some of the most revolutionary products still mess up pretty often and can’t always see the future. We recently saw this with the overhyping of the Metaverse. Still, Intel stands out among the tech behemoths with some notable missed opportunities over the years. Now, its CEO Pat Gelsinger has stated exactly what he thinks they are.
The comments from Gelsinger came in a brief video (below) via Digit, one of India’s biggest tech publications, according to TechSpot. The CEO quickly runs through the company’s biggest missed opportunities, stating bluntly the two biggest were AI and the “mobile wave.”
For AI, he noted that Intel has had multiple AI acquisitions and then famously canned its Larrabee discrete GPU project in 2009. Gelsinger notes that keeping that project around “would have made all the difference in the world” as it has had to restart the effort largely from scratch with its Arc graphics technology, which it launched last year to middling reviews from the technology press.
That GPU gap, for lack of a better phrase, has made Intel largely irrelevant to the current AI craze sweeping the industry, as it doesn’t have anything to offer to compete with Nvidia. Gelsinger was also pushed out of Intel as the CTO shortly before Larrabee was cancelled, so there’s some history there. Intel has had to spend billions of dollars to restart its discrete GPU business in the meantime. Though it will likely pay dividends a few years from now across its portfolio of products, it’s surely frustrating to consider where Intel would be now if it had been making GPUs for the past 14 years.
As far as the mobile wave goes, Intel can join Microsoft in kicking themselves that they’re not a part of the current smartphone market. Intel used to make phone chips, but that was before the iPhone arrived, and ARM took over the market along with Qualcomm. Intel also used to make smartphone modems but sold that business along with all the IP to Apple in 2019 for $1 billion. Since then, Apple has reportedly struggled to make its own 5G modem and uses modems from Qualcomm in its phones instead.
Gelsinger then tacked on the notion that its third big whiff was that Intel was “fundamentally biased towards building a great foundry,” implying it was too focused on making its own chips instead of how the industry could use its manufacturing prowess. Gelsinger doesn’t go into detail, but this narrow vision might have prevented it from evolving into a powerhouse like TSMC, which makes chips for some of the world’s biggest companies and is Intel’s biggest rival. Intel is attempting to rectify this with its nascent Foundry Services division, which has already inked several high-profile deals but is years away from competing with TSMC and Samsung.