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Rufus D
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Retired investor after a 25 year career in Silicon Valley, with management, engineering, marketing, and angel investing experience in semiconductors, software, and peripherals. Today's investment plan: Let dog out, surf Seeking Alpha, let dog in.
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  • Rest In Peace Steve Jobs - My Encounter With The Great Visionary

    I had the opportunity to meet and interact with Steve Jobs back in the early 1980s. At the time, he was working on the Mac design as head of Apple (AAPL), and I was working as an application engineer at Intel (INTC) in Santa Clara. Apple was a design win we really wanted to get, so one of the sales guys set up a meeting to try and sell Apple on our upcoming 386 chip. On our side, we had a couple of the Intel founders, Andy Grove and Gordon Moore, our chief CPU architect at the time John Crawford, and a few of our other best guys. I was there to talk about the assembler and compiler software and debug tools that we had for the 386. Steve brought over a team from Apple, and also invited Bill Joy, the Computer Science wiz from Berkeley who had designed BSD Unix and written many of the key tools to implement it. (A side note, Steve and I were both born in 1955, and were the youngest guys in the room that day. Bill was a bit older, born in '54.)

    Apple had already started down the path of the 32 bit 'flat' architecture promoted by Motorola on their 68000 family CPUs, and their soon to follow PowerPC chips. The stakes were high for both Intel and Apple: Intel had the inside track for all of the upcoming 32 bit PC machines with the 386, but if Apple's Motorola design proved superior, it would be major trouble for Intel in PC land. On the other hand, Apple was implementing all proprietary software for the Mac, which Steve Jobs the Great Visionary knew was going to be far superior to anything out there, but if the CPU design underperformed or the supplier performed poorly, Apple would be in trouble. Steve Jobs and company arrived at the Intel Santa Clara 6 building, were shown to the conference room, and the meeting commenced.

    What ensued was one of the all time titanic debates regarding computer architecture. Both sides argued over every detail down to the register and bit level, the tradeoffs of every mode, addressing scheme, memory cycle types, and everything else having to do with CPU designs of the day. The Intel guys talked a lot about the hardware design details and tradeoffs, and Dr. Joy and the Apple guys countered with all the software design tradeoffs needed for everything from the compilers to the operating system. It was an amazing display of technical brilliance from some of the best engineering minds on the planet. I had very little to add to the discussion because we never got to the subject of development tools, but I really enjoyed the show.

    Throughout the battle, Steve Jobs sat coolly observing both sides, and taking in all the details. He said nothing. Then, at some point, Steve Jobs the Great Visionary revealed another major character trait, Steve Jobs the Great Risk Taker. He put his hands on the table, announced the meeting was over, then stood up and walked out of the meeting. He had considered the Intel option, given his and their best minds a chance to discuss it, and then he had made the final decision, and would never look back. He had more important things to do to make the Mac a reality.

    It was about 25 years later that Intel finally got the design win at Apple, and that was the day I went long AAPL. Rest in Peace Steve Jobs, you really did change the world, and my encounter with you was the most memorable of any I had in Silicon Valley.

    Tags: AAPL, INTC
    Jun 11 4:09 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Note To Yahoo: Add The Government To Yahoo Finance

    As I sit here this morning reading the excellent articles on Seeking Alpha about the latest Amazon (AMZN) quarterly report, it suddenly occurred to me: why can't we find out all of this info about the various Federal Government agencies? I decided to look at the Department of Energy as an example to see what I could find out. Wouldn't it be great if the DOE had to publish a quarterly report like all the public companies do? Wouldn't it be excellent if the management had a quarterly conference call to explain their strategy to the analysts and investors (us, the taxpayers). Wouldn't it be great if we could enter a symbol like USDOE into Yahoo Finance or Seeking Alpha and get all the same kind of detailed information, analysis and debate as we get when we type in AMZN?

    I visited the DOE website and at the bottom quickly found the budget page. From there I found out that DOE spent $26.2B last year, and wants to spend $27.1B this year, a 3.2% increase. If DOE ran a flat-line revenue=expenses enterprise (kind of like Amazon), that means DOE would be #107 on the Fortune 500 list, just ahead of McDonald's. And that is just for one rather small agency of the Federal Government. Of course, there are no detailed reports, discussion of results, or requirements of transparency like every public company must provide under SEC regulations. The analysis of DOE finances is summarized in one page: Here is what we spent last year, this year we need more.

    A quick look at the DOE home page shows a variety of initiatives, services, and programs that are supposed to produce benefits for the American people and the taxpayer investors in DOE. But how are these working out? What are the user's saying? Which DOE partnerships are critical to their success? How much money are these partners getting? And what do the users of these services think about them? Is there anyplace like Seeking Alpha where we can all participate in the discussion?

    I have a suggestion for Marissa Mayer, who I think is doing a good job with Yahoo (YHOO) so far. Marissa, if you really want to add value to Yahoo, create a great new service, and do something really outstanding for our country and the world, add the Federal government to Yahoo Finance.

    Here's what to do: create a list of symbols for all the major agencies, put some researchers on it to gather all the data you can that normally appears for your public company symbols, and ask the agencies to provide what you don't have. Make Yahoo charts of their expenses over the last 20 years. Create a virtual market for these symbols, and allow people to trade them based on their value propositions and ever changing external factors. Let the taxpayers put a value on them, rather than the insiders in Washington. And sum it all up in a special index you can track, maybe you can call it the Fed-100.

    Meanwhile sites like Seeking Alpha can provide the forums for experts who use, work at, or partner with all these Federal agencies to do the analysis and debate that we all need. And by the way, tie it all back to the effects on the value of stocks like Exxon (XOM) for energy, and every public company for things like healthcare.

    The Federal Government needs to be operating under SEC Regulations, the same as the rest of us. If they won't do it on their own, let's do it for them. With the help of Yahoo Finance, we can make it happen.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

    Jan 31 2:19 PM | Link | Comment!
  • Otellini Leaving Intel: It's Time For Intel To Get In The Game

    Intel (INTC) abruptly announced that CEO Paul Otellini will be retiring in May after an 8 year term and 40 years with the company. The departure seems to be amicable as Otellini will assist in the search for a replacement, and will be available as a mentor for the new CEO. Several internal candidates are possible replacements, but the Intel board says external candidates will be considered. Otellini has had a long and successful career as one of the key players in the semiconductor industry. We wish him well in his retirement.

    But it is time for change. Otellini did a nice job turning the ship in the PC and server business, and extending Intel's leadership in chip manufacturing technologies. These are the areas he knows and loves, and he was the perfect man for those jobs when he was promoted to CEO during a rather chaotic period at Intel in 2005. But like most companies that have a cash cow in place, he spent all his time and resources milking the cow, not looking to the future.

    Intel desperately needs a market oriented visionary leader who understands mobile, is looking at potential opportunities and partnerships, and is willing to make risk adjusted investments and acquisitions, and create industry changing initiatives. Intel did this repeatedly during the high growth phase of the PC business during the 80s and 90s, but lately not so much. The biggest silicon advances of the mobile revolution where created by Intel competitors like ARM (ARMH), Qualcomm (QCOM), Apple (AAPL), Nvidia (NVDA), and Samsung. These would be good places for Intel to look for a replacement.

    Andy Grove used to call them inflection points, and Otellini missed the biggest one in tech history, the mobile shift. Intel still (accidentally) benefited due to the growth of the cloud, but this was the vision of others, not Intel. I hope they can find a Bezos or Jobs to figure out how to properly spend that cash hoard they have built. Paying higher dividends and share buybacks will not help us maintain our technology lead in the 21st century. We need Intel to get in the game.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

    Tags: QCOM, NVDA, ARMH, INTC
    Nov 20 2:57 PM | Link | Comment!
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