I found it very interesting (and refreshing) that Diane Bryant, general manager of Intel's Datacenter and Connected Systems Group, pulled no punches when asked a question about rival AMD's recent acquisition of microserver startup SeaMicro Inc. Bryant said, among other things, that Intel had passed on the opportunity to acquire the company before AMD's announcement.
"We did look at SeaMicro's fabric," Bryant said. "There are probably very few people they didn't come to and shop their technology. We were not impressed. We declined. Very soon after our competitor acquired them."
Now, of course, it does not surprise me that an Intel executive did not heap praise on AMD for the acquisition. I would have been much more surprised if Bryant had said something like, "SeaMicro has fabulous technology and our competitor really beat us to the punch on making that acquisition. We really wish we'd thought of it."
The thing I found interesting about Bryant's reaction was that it was strongly worded. I've been involved in the semiconductor industry for 15 years, and in my experience, nine times out of 10 an executive will answer a question about a competitor's acquisition by subtly downplaying it, reacting as though they'd barely noticed it and turn the conversation away from what their competitor was doing toward what their company is doing (which Byant actually did). Rarely do they put it so bluntly.
Why? I've never been sure, exactly. I think it has something to do with not wanting to acknowledge that what your competition has done is significant enough to have even captured a lot of your attention. I think people realize that if you openly disparage your competition (which is not the way I would characterize Bryant's response) it will reflect poorly on you. In my college fraternity, when courting potential recruits, we were advised to answer any questions about rival fraternities with: "I didn't realize they had a chapter at this university."
Of course, we journalists applaud such a frank and, apparently, honest answer. A cynic might wonder if Bryant's response was designed to mask a fear that AMD actually had tactically outmaneuvered Intel on this one. But I'll take Bryant at her word.
Intel, which by the way has a lot of money in the bank, could have bought SeaMicro, which to date has brought out only products that use Intel processors, but chose not to.
Bryant went on to say that Intel intends to continue to participate strong in the microserver market. Other firms, including Dell, Supermicro, NEC, Hitachi and Tyan, offer microservers based on Intel processors. Bryant said Intel believes it will continue to be the leading processor supplier to microservers.
"We believe we have a very strong roadmap for microservers," Bryant said.
Diane Bryant, general manager of Intel's Datacenter and Connected Systems Group, speaking at a press event Tuesday in San Francisco.