Intel will unfurl some more information on March 23 on all of its efforts in the energy world.
We've covered quite a number of the company's efforts in the past. The basic strategy is the same one Intel has used in other markets: it wants to promote new applications and then sell chips to run those applications. (In the verb-less Intel code language, this strategy is called "New Uses, New Users.") Intel sent LED bulbs and notices to reporters today to inform them of the event.
Here are some of the topics you can expect to hear quite a bit about next week:
--Home automation. Executives at the Big I began to discuss how energy consumption and home automation could be modernized with digital technology. It was code language for a push into the market. (We broke the story here.) Then in January of this year, CEO Paul Otellini showed off a home management device at CES. Intel has licensed the design to contract manufacturers already, who in turn have permission to license it to hardware makers. Expect to see the home management console as well as a lot of talk about thermostats and light bulbs.
--Smart grid. Intel is already working with the State Grid Corporation in China. It is also a big supporter of Grid Net, the company that wants to use WiMax in the grid. Intel has been behind the WiMax concept since the beginning.
--Wind. There are ten processors in the average wind turbine. Intel sells to some large vendors already.
--Demand response and efficiency. It already is an investor in CPower.
--Green IT. Intel in 2001 kicked off an effort to reduce power consumption in chips. That was to prevent computers from melting. The company shifted its emphasis to power savings as electricity prices climbed.
--Solar. Intel has spun out a few start-ups in solar already and Intel Capital has invested in some as well. Solar cells are basically just semiconductors. Intel may not ever produce solar cells itself, but expect it to try to get its technology for chips more integrated into solar.
--Talent. Intel may not go over this, but a growing number of green start-ups are headed by Intel alums. The company has a knack for producing people well versed in technology and marketing, running employees ragged and wearing down anyone that tries to resist their sales pitch. VCs love that.
How serious will the push be? It's hard to say. Former CEOs Andy Grove and Craig Barrett have long talked about how the U.S. needs to invest more in energy. Grove in particular has been adamant about promoting electric cars. (Co-founder Gordon Moore and Barrett are also ardent outdoorsmen.) All three loom large at the company. A lot of new energy applications will require silicon, which Intel can provide.
Intel, however, has had an uneven history of getting into new markets. Smart grid? The smart grid will largely revolve around communications chips. Intel's foray into communications led to billions in acquisitions and not many customers. It ultimately sold off many of its assets in the space. Texas Instruments and Broadcom in the end might do better than Intel. A lot of the chips that go into wind turbines and other devices also cost less than PC processors.
Paul Otellini, meanwhile, is said to be supportive, but not over-the-top supportive, about pursuing the energy market. Thus, Intel might be interested in green but it may occupy only a sliver of the company's attention.
Then again, online shopping, electronic books and other devices could be classified as green. And Intel knows that computers may not enjoy the primacy on the Internet they once did. The company needs ways to fill up its fabrication facilities. Thus, as time goes on, its efforts may catch up with its marketing.