Intel lets go of its CEO amid mobile struggles

Intel, the world’s #1 chip maker, has been trying and failing for years to replicate its PC leadership status in mobile. Today, the company issued an unexpected update, saying its long-time CEO Paul Otellini will be retiring in May 2013. Though the semiconductor giant insists this is just “an orderly leadership transition”, Otellini’s successor has not been named and Intel said it will consider internal and external candidates for the job. Intel currently supplies processors for Apple’s Macs, but that could change if the rumor-mill is to be trusted…

According to a media release, Otellini is credited with successfully leading development and deployment of High-K/Metal gate and 3-D Tri-gate transistor technologies, promoting the Ultrabook platform and delivering the first smartphones and tablets for sale with Intel inside.

Otellini, who’s been with Intel for forty years and in CEO capacity over the last eight years, will work with the company to transition his role. Intel’s earnings have not been meeting expectations lately, leading some to speculate that Otellini, who also sits on Google’s Board of Directors, might have been let go.

Indeed, even the most casual observer would have a hard time spotting mobile devices in the wild based on Intel’s lacking mobile platform. The chip giant is a minor player in mobile because it doesn’t have the power efficiency required by small form factor devices where battery performance is of the utmost importance.

Instead, chip designs developed by UK-based ARM Holdings plc and GPU designs from Imagination Technologies, another British fabless semiconductor maker, are predominantly used in system-on-a-chip solutions powering today’s smartphones and tablets.


This includes Apple, whose iPhone and iPad processors developed in-house feature ARM and Imagination designs. Another huge player in mobile is Nvidia, whose Tegra platform drives a plethora of Android devices.

Bloomberg recently reported that the iPhone maker is looking to drop Intel’s chips from Macs beginning with 2017. Apple transitioned to Intel chips on Macs in 2005, dropping the power-inefficient PowerPC platform.

Bob Masnfield, Apple’s SVP of Technologies, is apparently overseeing Apple’s investigations into other chip alternatives, including its own chip designs used for iOS devices as these will “one day be powerful enough” to run Mac desktops and laptops.

What a month for tech news, eh?

First Apple’s Forstall, then Microsoft’s Sinofsky and now Intel’s Otellini.

Who’s next?

Android chief Andy Rubin, perhaps?