At the Consumer Electronics Show this year, chipmaker Intel sought to distance itself from two separate issues that have plagued the company for more than a year: conflict minerals and John McAfee.
In its press conference announcing all the cool new technologies the people crave, nay demand, including wireless charging bowls, 3D scanners, and baby monitors, CEO Brian Krzanich turned the mood somber for a moment (emphasis theirs):
Next, Krzanich says he wants to take a departure, to talk about something that is very important to him personally, but not something often talked about at CES: death in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the mining of “conflict minerals.” The monitors display a series of images — finger on a trigger, a young man apparently lying dead on the ground — and words such as “murdered.”
“The minerals are important, but not as important as the lives of the people who work to get them,” says Krzanich. He says that after four years of work by Intel on the problem, every Intel processor this year will be “conflict-free.” Big applause from the room for that. He invites the industry to try to follow suit.
According to the AP, they're the first American company to make such a pledge. It's a big move on Intel's part (though they've been working at this for a while), but just as interesting is the venue in which they chose to announce it. The tech keynote has become, at this point, a performative spectacle, and CES is a full week's worth of that sleight of hand and tech wizardy. For Intel to pause in the middle of their act and point out to the tech press—those most interested in their products—that consumers are in some small way contributing to suffering elsewhere is a risky tactic. But it's a shrewd one, because there's really only one way for the press to react. Doubtful they'd criticize a company for copping to a serious moral issue.
Intel also decided to get rid of John McAfee, another blight on their public image. For some reason, the avid drug user and accused murderer wasn't the name that Intel wanted to associate with their antivirus software. So his name is off the box. The new product is now just called Intel Security.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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