While Intel’s social initiatives are certainly laudable, they do not compare to the effect of the company’s truly scaled, self-sustaining for-profit activities throughout the developing world. Intel’s distribution channels and innovative technology have had enormous economic impact on local IT industries and the broader economy in many countries. In fashioning his address, Barrett had a rich palette to draw from, including:
- Intel’s development of the Atom processor – the energy-efficient chips have enabled netbook makers to scale, making laptops more affordable to hundreds of thousands of emerging-market consumers.
- The development of the Classmate PC reference design – Intel’s answer to OLPC’s XO machine has been borrowed and tweaked by many early netbook manufacturers.
- Intel’s investment in WiMax – a cost-effective network infrastructure that could extend voice and data services far into underserved areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The technology industry could use an unapologetic champion who will talk straight about the benefits of emerging-markets to the bottom line. And, of course, a healthy bottom line means more investment, which brings greater social and economic development to the target market. But there’s little reason to suggest that these social benefits are the basis for the business decisions the company makes. Shareholders, business partners and local governments will all respond positively to the corporate leader who speaks of these markets as viable business opportunities. There are a number of candidates for the role of emerging-market champion. Cisco’s John Chambers came the closest in his inspiring keynote at the end of the CES emerging economies session, calling these markets important leaders in technology evolution and market transitions. But there is still plenty of room on the stage.
Also in the news: