Time magazine chose Andy Grove, chairman and CEO of Intel Corp., as its "Man of the Year" last week, and in so doing used its selection of Grove as a soap box to pay homage to the high-technology industry as the driving force behind a healthy economy.
"Time chooses as its 1997 Man of the Year Andrew Steven Grove, chairman and CEO of Intel, the person most responsible for the amazing growth in the power and innovative potential of microchips," said Walter Isaacson in his opening paragraph to Time's annual award.
It was 15 years ago this week, in 1982, that Time magazine first turned its attention to the high-tech industry when it chose the personal computer as its Man of the Year.
The 1997 cover story, which runs for approximately 350 lines, devotes only 70 lines to Grove the man.
Time lauds Intel under Grove's tutelage for "making 90 percent of the planet's microchips for PCs;" for creating a company with a value of US$115 billion, "more than IBM;" and for achieving annual profits of $5.1 billion.
The remainder of the cover piece is used to cite the contributions high technology has made to everything from the growth in the world economy to the continuance of American freedoms.
"The high-tech industry, which accounted for less than 10 percent of America's growth in 1990, accounts for 30 percent today," Isaacson said. "The microchip has become the dynamo of a new economy marked by low unemployment, negligible inflation, and a rationally exuberant stock market.
"Information can no longer be easily controlled nor ideas repressed nor societies kept closed. A networked world facilitates free minds, free markets, and free trade," Isaacson said.
Time also credits the microchip and computer for the growth in world trade.
"With clicks of a keyboard, investors trade $1.5 trillion worth of foreign currencies and $15 trillion in stocks worldwide each day," the cover story says.
Because the cover story focuses less on Intel and more on the high technology industry, Time did not look too deeply into some of Intel's more immediate challenges.
Embedded microprocessors used in the new and rapidly growing market for handheld devices is a market that Intel does not dominate.
Windows CE devices running a version of Microsoft Windows, and smaller products such as the PalmPilot, which uses a proprietary operating system, or smart phones such as the Nokia 9000, which combines a cellular phone with a personal digital assistant and can access e-mail and the Internet, all use non-Intel processors. Instead these products use low-power, very low-cost chips made by Hitachi, NEC, Philips, and Toshiba.
Many see handheld devices as the next major growth area in digital technology. [See "Handheld PCs Grow Up," Dec. 20 ]
"We predict that in two to three years there will be a revolutionary growth in handheld devices," said the Yankee Group, in Boston, in a study published earlier this month.
Other areas where Intel has less of a foothold is in low-cost microprocessors for PCs, such as the ones produced by Cyrix and AMD. Compaq is currently doing a brisk business with an under-$1,000 Presario model computer that uses the Cyrix chip.
High-end notebook sales -- one of the key vehicles for an Intel strategy to sell ever-faster processors -- are slowing.
IBM's vice president for the Mobile Division, Adalio Sanchez, said recently that the ThinkPad 385, which does not use the latest Intel processor, is more than good enough as a desktop replacement for most corporate users.
The next-generation Intel processor, slated for introduction in late 1998, also faces a rocky road. The 64-bit Merced microprocessor will most likely be available well before there is a Microsoft operating system to take advantage of its computing power. Microsoft is not promising its next 32-bit version of Windows NT until the end of 1998.
Although Intel is lining up companies with Unix OSes to run on the Merced, a Microsoft version of NT is key to volume sales.
Intel is not assured continuing success, but according to Time magazine, Grove "has a courageous passion alloyed with an engineer's analytic coldness" that may help Grove and his lieutenants find a way to continue to dominate no matter what changes occur in the market.
According to Time, Grove has been able "to push with paranoiac obsession the bounds of innovation and to build Intel into the seventh most profitable company in the world."
Intel Corp., in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at http://www.intel.com/.