Will Swope on Sustaining a Business in a Weak Economy

Intel's sustainability czar, Will Swope, is confident the technology compny will thrive during the current downturn.
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Question: Does research and development fall behind in a weak economy?

Swope: We work in an industry that is the most competitive industry that’s ever been created in the history of the world.  If, let’s just look at energy efficiency just to put this in context, right?  In energy efficiency, a computer today is about 3 million times more efficient, meaning in the amount of computation it can do per watt of power consumed as it was when it was developed 60 years ago or 50 years ago.  There’s nothing else that we can name in any product category that’s even 10 times.  So you’re looking in an industry that is orders of magnitude moving faster in terms of its innovation than any other industry that’s ever been created.  So you say, well, so, you know, how do you go manage that?  How do you go deal with that?  You know, it’s kind of a self-preserving prophecy.  If you’re not doing the research and development, you’re not going to be able to stay competitive or the person or in other country that is and you just [got] a business.  So R&D for us in that kind of passion in development of both the two main parts of what we do, one of which is building a better and better transistor that’s called the process and one of which is that putting those transistors together in a more and more clever and hopefully innovative ways, i.e., how you build a microprocessor, how you build the chips, how you build graphics, how you build consumer electronics, how you do any of the things that you do with it in those three major areas, you know.  We have invested through every recession.  We have invested and we will continue to invest through this economic crisis.

Question: What’s the outlook for Intel in the current climate?

Swope:    Well, first of all, I don’t know what’s going to happen to our business, right.  We don’t, you know, I can’t tell you a year from now how our business faired up to 2009.  We don’t know today.  Fundamentally, businesses are to meet the needs of consumers and whether that consumer be another business, whether it be a government, whether it be, you know, someone looking for a PC for their child, or someone trying to buy a bicycle, you’re trying to meet the need.  The way you grow businesses by meeting those needs better than the other guy.  Sometimes it just gets down to nothing more than that.  So, if you’re in markets that are shrinking, then you’re going to certainly take, you are going to shrink along with that market in the short term and then you have to make sure that you’ll then use the four component of technologies to hopefully build other products then in related industries and, you know, I think that’s the work that we’ve been trying to do in a number of different areas in the last five years in Intel.