Ramblings & ephemera

Intel’s ups and downs

From FORTUNE’s “Lessons in Leadership: The Education of Andy Grove“:

By 1983, when Grove distilled much of his thinking in his book High Output Management (still a worthwhile read), he was president of a fast-growing $1.1-billion-a-year corporation, a leading maker of memory chips, whose CEO was Gordon Moore. … What Moore’s Law did not and could not predict was that Japanese firms, too, might master this process and turn memory chips into a commodity. …

Intel kept denying the cliff ahead until its profits went over the edge, plummeting from $198 million in 1984 to less than $2 million in 1985. It was in the middle of this crisis, when many managers would have obsessed about specifics, that Grove stepped outside himself. He and Moore had been agonizing over their dilemma for weeks, he recounts in Only the Paranoid Survive, when something happened: “I looked out the window at the Ferris wheel of the Great America amusement park revolving in the distance when I turned back to Gordon, and I asked, ‘If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?’ Gordon answered without hesitation, ‘He would get us out of memories.’ I stared at him, numb, then said, ‘Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back, and do it ourselves?'”

… once IBM chose Intel’s microprocessor to be the chip at the heart of its PCs, demand began to explode. Even so, the shift from memory chips was brutally hard–in 1986, Intel fired some 8,000 people and lost more than $180 million on $1.3 billion in sales–the only loss the company has ever posted since its early days as a startup.

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