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Intel wants to own the weather prediction business

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Interview The conventional wisdom - whatever that is worth - pegs Intel EVP Sean Maloney as the company's successor to CEO Paul Otellini. That's great news for technology hacks because, man, this Maloney guy is quite a bit more open about his personal life and feelings than Otellini.

One need only look at this piece in the Times to see just how much Maloney will share. You learn about the size of his arse, sleeping habits, and - surely this is just for show - love of the periodic table.

The Register accosted Maloney last week at Intel's Silicon Valley headquarters for a less personal probe. As regular readers know, our organ makes more of an executive's thoughts on chip architecture than his divorces. Well, unless drugs and orgies are involved.

But try as we might to stay on the technology track, Maloney pulled us away. In this case, he nudged us toward his subconscious. Maloney, it seems, dreams of really, really big things and is quite taken with water imagery.

"There was this time around our annual sales conference where I woke up at three in the morning," Maloney said. "I was thinking of those types of technology predictions where you look at what we'll get in, say, 2015. I thought back to the Minority Report where you see Tom Cruise flipping those images around. Well, that's just about to happen. You'll have these giant screens and be able to throw images around them. I'm going to demonstrate that at Computex. That stuff is arriving just a few years after the movies.

"So, I thought about where processing power will go. If we can deliver 10,000 times the processing power we have today, you would be able to predict weather patterns. What if I knew what the wind speed will be when I go rowing? What if you knew in Bombay when it will rain? Can you imagine what you could do with water savings? It would be so cool."

There you have it. Maloney has supercomputing dreams, which beats our rather depressing block storage fantasies by a country mile.

"We are planning and investing for that type of future," Maloney said. "When we talk about things like predicting when it rains, we want that to run on Intel machines."

For the top-end server stuff, Intel has no fears around how customers will use the multi-core chips, er, flooding the market.

"In the high-end segment, there is an infinite requirement for more compute power," Maloney said. "The high order bit on that conversation is can you do it without using a nuclear power station."

Digging down to desktops and mobile devices, however, the multi-core question becomes more complex. Certainly, some software makers will use up all the horsepower available to them for high-end games or image editing software. But beyond that, you have to wonder if enough flashy software will arrive in the next couple of years that will have the parallel code needed to take advantage of multi-core chips.

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