Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Andy Grove, RIP

Casey Newton:

Andy Grove, who fled from Nazi and Soviet oppression to become one of the most powerful business leaders in the global tech industry as the chairman and CEO of Intel, died on Monday. He was 79. The cause of death was not reported, though Grove was a longtime sufferer of Parkinson’s disease.


Present at Intel’s 1968 founding with Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, Andy Grove became Intel’s President in 1979 and CEO in 1987. He served as Chairman of the Board from 1997 to 2005. Both during his time at Intel and in retirement, Grove was one of the most influential figures in technology and business, writing best-selling books and widely cited articles, and speaking out on an array of prominent public issues.

Steve Johnson:

During his three decades with the Santa Clara corporation, the gruff and demanding Grove helped mold Intel into a multibillion-dollar Goliath and the world’s biggest semiconductor company. Along the way, he also became a prolific author, donated millions of dollars to charity and was lavished with awards, including being named Time magazine’s Man of the Year.


Grove fled to Austria at the age of 20 and, with $20 in his pocket, emigrated to the United States, where he changed his name from Grof to Grove, moved in with relatives and was accepted at City College of New York.


Finishing City College in 1960 at the top of his class with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, he entered graduate school at UC Berkeley and arranged for his parents to leave Hungary and join him in California. After receiving a doctorate degree in chemical engineering in 1963, Grove landed a job with Silicon Valley chip pioneer Fairchild Semiconductor, where he became assistant director of research and development in 1967.

Ian King:

When Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison told Andy Grove he was the only person in Silicon Valley who they would willingly work for, he told them he wouldn’t have hired either because they were “a couple of flakes.”

He was at least half serious and didn’t crack a smile.


If Grove experienced fear when he came to Intel, that didn’t stop him from using it as a management technique. He influenced a generation of Intel executives who referred to planning meetings with him as a “Hungarian inquisition.”

“Mentoring with Andy Grove was like going to the dentist and not getting Novocain,” said Pat Gelsinger, a former Intel executive who went on to become CEO of VMWare Inc.

Jonathan Kandell:

The first major crisis was linked to the rise of cheaper, high-quality Japanese memory chips beginning in the late 1970s. Instead of cutting costs by laying off staff, Mr. Grove demanded that Intel employees work an extra two hours a day — for free. Almost simultaneously, Intel introduced an advanced chip, the i432 microprocessor, that the company claimed would reshape computing’s future.

Instead, it proved a disaster, running 5 to 10 times more slowly than competitors. Part of the problem, Mr. Grove conceded in a 2001 interview with Wired magazine, was that he initially failed to take microprocessors seriously enough. “I was running an assembly line designed to build memory chips,” he said. “I saw the microprocessor as a bloody nuisance.”

But with Mr. Grove at the helm, Intel soon made the transition from memory chip to microprocessor giant.

Ben Thompson:

That’s why the Grove decision that actually impresses me the most is Intel’s launch of the Celeron processor in 1998. Grove had been introduced to a then-relatively-unknown Harvard Business School professor named Clayton Christensen, who told him about research for an upcoming book (The Innovator’s Dilemma) that explained how companies in their pursuit of margin allowed themselves to be beat on the low-end. Grove took the lesson to heart and directed Intel to create a low-end processor (Celeron) that certainly cannibalized Intel’s top-of-the-line processor to an extent but also dominated the low-end, quickly gaining 35% market share.

Update (2016-04-02): Ken Segall:

Intel’s huge leap in marketing came with the “Intel Inside” campaign. Though it’s grown incredibly tired today, this campaign does hold a place of honor in technology marketing history. It was by advertising the processor inside the PC as a consumer product that Intel became the global powerhouse it is today. It was a huge, bold leap.

Intel’s then-marketing chief, Dennis Carter, has always received credit for the birth of this campaign. But Fortune has a very nice article about Andy Grove (recommended reading), and they report that it was Andy who put his weight behind the campaign when others objected. That’s certainly a feather in his marketing cap.

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