I have never loved Intel
A blazing 30-minute speech delivered by CEO Paul Otellini yesterday served many purposes, all of them admirable:
- Outline the roots of America's declining focus on innovation.
- Set goals for American industry and government to mend the damage.
- Launch two separate Intel-backed programs aiming for those new targets.
- Inspire other American businesses to join the cause.
Otellini sighs and shakes his head
Intel spent more than $5 billion on research last year, creating thousands of American jobs and providing a reason for our kids to study math and engineering. "But there's no guarantee that the U.S. will receive all of this investment in the future," Otellini said. "We need to address the fact that government policies can create dis-incentives to investing in America. The trends are worrisome."
Countries like India, China, South Korea, and Finland are catching up fast (or passing us) in our former dominance in math, science, and engineering. Countries outside North America are investing more into these critical areas than we do, Otellini said, and our digital infrastructure is also falling behind.
The deeper issues
Corporate research credits are drying up over here but blossoming elsewhere. Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices
American corporate taxes, immigration policies, health care, and lack of renewable energy all strike Otellini as disadvantages for the American economy. Those are issues for the government to tackle. Yep, Intel is taking a stand on the soapbox for America, right beside Google
But Otellini isn't laying the entire load on Uncle Sam. That's where those two Intel-funded programs come in:
- Together with 24 private equity firms, including luminaries like Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Intel is creating a $3.5 billion pool of venture capital under the Invest in America Alliance name. That cash will be invested in promising American ventures in fields like clean energy, biotech, and information technology in the next two years. Heck of a start, I say.
- And, a veritable "Who's Who" of American technology businesses have joined Intel in hiring more recent college graduates. This year, companies like Google, Cisco Systems
(Nasdaq: CSCO), General Electric (NYSE: GE), and Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM)will create 10,500 new jobs under this program.
It's clear that Intel is willing to put its money where Otellini's mouth is, and when an industry leader like Intel throws its weight around for a worthy cause, it's not difficult to get support from peers and rivals of all shades. Where else do you see Google and Microsoft
There are a few notable names missing from Intel's alliance, including rival AMD and a few true IT giants, but Otellini said he expects more venture capitalists and corporations to join the Alliance "in the coming weeks or months." Here's hoping.
My take, and an overdue apology
As a longtime AMD shareholder, I've tended to see Intel as the bumbling elephant in the microchip industry. A respectable and indestructible elephant, sure, but still a large, slow, and clumsy pachyderm. And I feel that I owe Otellini an apology for some of that attitude today.
The Invest in America Alliance and the thinking behind it show that Otellini does pay attention to many problems I thought he might have ignored, and is willing to take a leadership role in correcting them. So my hat's off to you, Mr. Otellini, and I hope that you get a lot more help kicking America's sorry butt into shape -- stat!
I'm personally not shocked by the dark side of Otellini's speech, but I am very encouraged by his plan of attack. Companies with vision of this magnitude at the top are few and far between, and that level of inspired leadership makes Intel a serious candidate for decades-long buy-and-hold investing, right alongside Google for much the same reason.
Would you hold Intel forever, dear Fool? Open your heart in the comments box below.
Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in AMD and Google, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Intel and Microsoft are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Motley Fool Options has recommended a buy calls position on Intel. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.