Intel's Krzanich Sees Big Data Future And Vows Bold Ventures In AI, Autonomous Driving

When it comes to business, playing it safe is not always the way to go. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich knows this as well as anyone, so in a memo sent to to employees, he said the "new normal for Intel" as the company approaches its 50th anniversary will be to "take more risks" as it continues to expand into new growth markets, ones in which the Santa Clara chipmaker is "definitely an underdog."

"We're just inches away from being a 50/50 company, meaning that half our revenue comes from the PC and half from new growth markets. In many of these new markets we are definitely the underdog. That's an exciting challenge—it requires that we develop and use new, different muscles," Krzanich said.

Brian Krzanich
Image Source: Flickr via Web Summit

"The new normal for Intel is that we are going to take more risks. The new normal is that we will continue to make bold moves and try new things. We'll make mistakes. Bold doesn't always mean right or perfect. The new normal is that we'll get good at trying new things, determining what works and moving forward," Krzanich continued.

This risky business strategy isn't coming out of desperation. Instead, it is a reflection of what Krzanich observed when he was new to Intel. In the memo, he explains that when he was just three months into the job, his boss informed him that Intel would be exiting the DRAM business and shutting one of its factories down. The knee-jerk reaction was disappointment and skepticism. He even called his father and told him he would be coming home.

As time went on, however, something else happened at Intel that Krzanich wasn't expecting.

"I watched as Intel made a massive shift. It required downsizing, new investments, and a lot of change. Yet in December 1997—20 years ago this month—Time magazine named then-Intel CEO Andy Grove its Man of the Year. Under his leadership, Intel had transformed from embattled memory maker to the world's leading microprocessor company and a leader of the digital revolution," Krzanich says.

Now two decades later, Krzanich, who was promoted to CEO in 2013, sees Intel reinventing itself once again. That doesn't mean Intel is kicking its microprocessor business to the curb. However, Intel has its fingers in several different cookie jars. Krzanich wants to reach for more than just crumbs. That means embracing change and acting as a "hungry, aggressive company," which is what got Intel to where it is today.

To an extent, we have already seen this from Intel. Last month, the company made a bombshell announcement saying it was partnering with rival AMD to build a new processor package incorporating an 8th Generation Core-H series CPU with AMD's Vega graphics and HMB2 memory. Intel also recently unveiled a self-learning AI chip designed to mimic human brain mechanics. And in the autonomous driving category, Intel in March spent $15.3 billion acquiring Mobileye, a company that develops vision-based advanced driver assistance systems.

Of course, being bold does not guarantee success, either. However, given Intel's track record, we wouldn't advise betting against the company.