In conducting extensive research for my book, The Flight of a Wild Duck, I recently came across a video of Andy Grove doing the Keynote at PC Expose in 1994. The title of the his speech was “The Ubiquitous PC.” This was at a time that most thought that it would be the TV and not the PC that would be the interactive device in the home. Later we began to use the term “The PC is It.”. By 1993, I had be come convinced that it would be the PC and not the TV and had already embarked on what became an extremely successful initiative to use both cable and telephone infrastructure to create residential broadband. I devote a large section of my book to this undertaking.
While Andy became a believer in the combination of powerful home computers coupled with high speed communications to create a new medium. Getting him there was not easy. Even in 1994, when he gave this speech, he did not really believe that cable companies were capable of developing residential broadband. He literally would laugh at me but to his credit, he did not stop me and even supported my efforts publicly on occasion
On the other hand, Andy believe that it would be the telephone companies that would provide connectivity to the home. He was a big believer in ISDN which was offered by many phone companies around the world to provide digital services. It could provide 64 k-bits or in some cases 125 k-bits. But it was expensive and hard to deploy. Later, the phone companies would develop DSL initially in a failed attempt to provide television services to consumer. I got the Intel Architecture label to modify this technology and create a standard that let the phone companies eventually offer broadband services to consumer.
In this video, you can hear Andy really promote IDSN and in conjunction with one of Intel’s greatest failures, ProShare. ProShare provided one to one video conferencing for about $25,000. Interestingly. ProShare was led by Pat Gelsinger, the recently elected CEO of Intel. Originally, I wrote a chapter on ProShare for my book but ultimately cut it out as it was not that relevant to the main flow of the book. I will be posting that section on the web site that I have created for my book as part of a series of essays that did not make it in the actual publication (www.wildducklfight.com) If you go there you can sign up to get notification about essays as they are published. Pat was a very bright and talented man but he had no previous business experience. Andy tapped Pat for this job because he was convinced that Pat was great at execution. ProShare was one of the few times that Andy himself pushed a new business idea. But a bad idea done right is still a bad idea. I tried to pursued Andy and Pat not to count on ISDN but they ignored me. But even if ISDN would have not had issue, ProShare would have failed. Andy eventually realized this himself when he stopped using it.
When Andy decided to demonstrate a cable modem at PC Expo, I was so thankful. Still, I got very tenuous support. Andy just could not relate to the cowboy mentality of the cable industry. He was much more comfortable with phone companies who had processes (and did they ever). On the other hand, Bill Gates was more comfortable with cable companies. For instance, Microsoft invested $1 billion in Comcast in 1997, more than $200 million in Time Warner’s Roadrunner cable modem service. However, Gates was a strange believer in interactive Television and wasted a lot of money developing products for that purpose.