Keeping An Eye On You
While she is proud of her contributions to the Chinese PC, Bell concedes that it is rare her research leads to product development. But she says she adds value in indirect ways. The Asia research, for example, was also presented to Intel's venture-capital team to help it choose investments, and it is used by the sales and marketing team to localize marketing messages. Engineers also use it to guide research and development efforts.
Intel recently restructured its departments by platform rather than product line, and Bell has landed in the new Digital Home Group. She plans to hire about 10 social scientists and designers to help determine which products might make life easier inside homes. "Twenty years ago, Intel was all about building a better chip," says Don MacDonald, vice president of Intel's Digital Home Group and Bell's boss. "Now the focus is on the customer. Genevieve has insight into how people behave and she is able to translate that for our technologists. It's better to understand who you are developing a product for before you put any resources into it."
Multiple users. What types of problems might Bell's group address? The son of an elderly mother living alone in another state might want to know if she hasn't opened her door or turned on her TV lately, giving the notion of a networked home new meaning. In many villages in India, as many as 20 people might share a computer to shop, creating a need for a billing system that can be used by everyone.
Bell, who says she is incapable of taking a vacation because "anthropology is not a career; it is in your blood," is eager to get started on her new assignment with research trips to Japan, Africa, and elsewhere. In the seven years she has been with Intel, she hasn't looked back. "I stand the chance of influencing what technology looks like all over the world, making sure it's meaningful and appropriate," she says. "That's as close a chance as ever I'll get at changing the world."
As for those MIP s ("million instructions per second"), Bell still doesn't know what they are. But it doesn't bother her in the least.