Intel’s Path

Those paying attention have noticed a pattern accompanying the chip giant’s fortunes lately. Two quick dustups in the education market, as Intel joined and then left SNS Project Inkwell and then the OLPC group, preceded by anti-trust actions in Europe and the U.S., with two more in Japan and S. Korea, now followed by an anti-trust action brought today by New York State.

Very Busy.

It’s almost as though Intel has taken over where Microsoft left off. While Steve Ballmer leads MS away from the old days of constant conflict and illegal activity, Intel finds itself increasingly on the wrong side of charges and allegations of unlawful or predatory conduct.

I have long been a believer in the old Andy Grove saying, “Only the paranoid survive.” But Andy himself escaped from under the boot of a Soviet system that used intimidation and fear to achieve its ends – assumedly the last things he’d wish his own firm to represent in the public mind.

Intel may be innocent of all of the allegations and charges rolled up against it at the moment, and in this country, at least – most of the time – you’re still innocent until proven guilty.

But why it’s necessary, or culturally important, to skate that close to the gray line, is something that comes as much from poor judgment, or mis-guided leadership, as from accident.

We need great leadership, in great companies, not just to make chips, but to provide examples to other, newer companies, to set role models for our kids, to inspire other countries with other systems that this system of free markets is the best system in the world.

It may be a good time for Intel to step back for just a moment, take an inward view, solicit an outside perspective, and re-commit itself to the quality of leadership that alone guarantees long-term corporate success.