Since the early 1990s Intel has been providing venture capital funding for technology start-ups to encourage the technology market. From small beginnings this has grown into a remarkable operation that today is investing not just across the technology spectrum, and that means from health and bio technology to consumer and, of course, classic computer-based activities. In addition it also invests globally and today is equally active in the new emerging economies, the so called BRIC group of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and throughout the last couple of years has continued to invest.
But it’s not just about money going in, this year so far Intel has cashed out successfully from 28 companies, cashing out meaning they went public or were acquired. That’s a remarkable track record, particularly given the current economy, and suggests Intel Capital is very, very good at picking winners, therefore it’s extremely valuable to see what areas they are choosing to invest in as the hot high growth sectors. This point means their annual Intel Capital event and showcase of their investment portfolio is very well attended by those who are equally supposed to understand these things!

Here’s Intel’s view of the trends to focus upon, and in their case what they are investing in;

  • Data Center/ Cloud
  • Mobile/ Internet Client
  • Digital Home
  • Consumer Internet
  • Software Services
  • Clean and Green Environment
  • Memory and its use

The interesting thing was that these trends bring about applying Moores Law in a different way; its not the doubling of performance for ever more powerful computers, it’s the same power costing half as much that is now the driver in all of these trends that move towards everything being instrumented and connected. This comes out as a numbers of devices in use and the numbers of people using them lifting the future towards a connected digital world. Try thinking about the 500 million Facebook users with 1.6 billion devices of 2010 as an example!
The event features Intel-sponsored start-ups giving their elevator pitches to the attendees with the aim of attracting both possible customers and partners and/or additional funding. These were organised into four groups, and given the previous statement about the connected digital world it won’t be a surprise to see;

  • Software in a Connected World
  • Future of the Data Centre
  • Sun Never Sets on Embedded Computing
  • Pursuit of Ubiquitous Computing

The reality was the Ubiquitous Computing session was about mobility and the Future of the Data Centre session was about cloud, and the attendees packed both sessions to the detriment of the other two. Okay, so we all know that these two topics are hot, and I suspect that a number of people reading this would have liked to have seen these presentations and the companies, well you can!!
Intel organises with Capgemini special events, we call them RAIN events standing for RApid INnovation at which one of the themes will be used to set up a kind of mini exhibition with workshops to both meet and learn from these start-ups. You can even prototype a set of solution screens as a real deliverable to take back to your company.
Having been to the full event what really surprised or struck me? Two things; the first is how many gaps all the existing major technology players have in their product ranges when compared to a ‘full’ technology stack to cover all of the elements that Intel believes comprise market solutions. This was illustrated on a slide that unfortunately is not online and I can’t get, so take it from me that it shows clearly the need to find capabilities for your enterprise outside your existing partners product sets.
Second, and to illustrate this point, as well as link to what kind of computational solutions will be required in the data centre to power this new age of digital devices used on the Internet, look at Joyent. This is second generation cloud computing to suit the connected digital world. Sure it runs what we all use today but it is a radically different approach, already with tens of customers everywhere from the USA to China. You can grab their whitepaper to understand their reasoning as to why we need to think again from a data centre made up of existing machines virtualised.
So thanks Intel ! I had my eyes opened in a systematic manner and it made me look at the solutions needed with new appreciation! We all need a dose of that from time to time especially when it can come with a real engagement model and outcome such as the RAIN mini versions of the event.