Feeds

Why Intel doesn't write stuff down

Because they're smart (Modes of Communication, Pt. 94)

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

What's the difference between hardware engineers and Microsoft - between the hardware guys and the software guys?

Why was Microsoft caught in the humiliation of a four year hairball of legislative scrutiny, when Intel escaped without the public knicker-washing. A complicated deal was cut with the FTC in 1997 - at about the time Intel acquired the Hudson plant, and with it the license for StrongARM and the rights to manufacture DEC's Alpha processor. At about the same time, Microsoft was being drawn into the propellors of a vicious Antitrust suit. Why did Intel cut such a shrewd deal, while Microsoft let its garrulous dirty washing hang out to dry?

Perhaps it's down to how they communicate, and their modes of communication are worth a moment of comparitive analysis.

Microsoft's heady corporate culture created a frenzy of babble - executives gushed and laid bare their sins in public. Bill agonized (in the Nokia memos) about how nice it is to have a monopoly, because it gives you the guilty pleasures of unearned wealth, and he toyed, as a cartoon Bond villain would, with the option of introducing proprietary protocols into Windows, to screw everyone else over. Brad Silverberg's memorable and quite confessional lower case memos (think bad Bloggers) attested to a dysfunctional company at war with itself, and in quite some disarray.

In common, they left a guilty paper trail behind them.

But Intel's tidiness and exacting corporate culture forbids such communication.

Firstly, when bidding for contract work, Intel representatives are encouraged to refrain from mentioning specifics: they must not commit to figures when negotiations are in progress, sources tell us.

Secondly, staffers have quite specific instructions to talk on a fixed line, not to call from cellphones, and not to email where possible when dealing with sensitive matters.

"Do everything verbally as far as you can", is how one source tell us. Avoid certain phrases such as "monopoly", and certain ways of applying pressure to people.

In other words, Intel is a company very aware of the potency of language in a given context

This is no bad thing. And for Intel, it's paid off. It has evaded the filthy media attention, or public auditing as we like to think, of its internal processes.

This is not intended as criticism: but it is a tribute to the superior modes of communication that hardware people seem to employ: terse, economic, efficient and full of value. Whereas software people tend to babble incoherently, getting themselves into all kinds of trouble.

We reckon this is because the barrier to entry in the hardware world is higher. In hardware, bullshitters are not tolerated. The linguistic economy and sound sense of reason that are required to become a hardware engineer contrast with the skills to become a "software engineer".

When Andy Grove wrote Only The Paranoid Survive, perhaps he was only articulating a defense of linguistic precision, much like any hardware guy would delineate a problem as being between the bounds of feasible and the fanciful). We think he was doing exactly this, and whatever you think of this equation (precision in expression) the results appear to be justified.

So notch one up to the linguistic engineers - or at least, the guys who care how language is used. We hear so much nowadays to the contrary: we are asked to subscribe to a model where more communication is axiomatically good for us. But this isn't the case: hardware engineers reject this Utilitarian equation, and know that better communication means better quality signals, not more noise.

A victory to Intel, and a deserved one, we reckon. ®

Related Story

Googlewashed [poor information representation]

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Kaspersky backpedals on 'done nothing wrong, nothing to fear' blather
Founder (and internet passport fan) now says privacy is precious
TROLL SLAYER Google grabs $1.3 MEEELLION in patent counter-suit
Chocolate Factory hits back at firm for suing customers
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Sit tight, fanbois. Apple's '$400' wearable release slips into early 2015
Sources: time to put in plenty of clock-watching for' iWatch
Facebook to let stalkers unearth buried posts with mobe search
Prepare to HAUNT your pal's back catalogue
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.