Intel Corp. is changing alright, but in such incremental and deliberate ways, the process may be near conclusion before its rivals, investors, and many industry analysts realize the extent of the dramatic turnaround the current management is trying to execute.
Over the course of the next five to 10 years, and certainly before the end of this decade, I expect dramatic changes in the operating model of the company, its end-markets, as well as competitors and customers. The changes will determine whether it stays atop the global semiconductor market as the biggest vendor by revenue.
For investors, the emerging Intel is already a puzzle, as evidenced in the weak valuation that followed the announcement of the company's fiscal fourth quarter results last week.
The Intel that is being refashioned out of the enterprise that has dominated the microprocessor market will be a manufacturing giant with unparalleled manufacturing resources and IP portfolio. It will become a leading semiconductor foundry and partner to many of today's OEMs -- and future OEMs -- in key telecom and data networking equipment markets. That Intel won't walk away from its traditional PC microprocessor business -- unlike when it exited the memory semiconductor market. Rather, it will continue as the dominant supplier to whatever remains of its traditional PC microprocessor OEM customer base, but without the current overwhelming dependence on them for a majority of its sales.
That's not all. Within the next five years, Intel will morph into a powerhouse supplier of chips to data-equipment companies, in addition to becoming one of only a few IDMs capable of offering extensive foundry-style services (semiconductor wafers) to leading OEMs in high-margin and highly specialized IT equipment markets.
In other words, in a very short time, Intel has the potential to become more recognized and rewarded for its services as a customized wafer foundry company than simply a vendor of chips to either the traditional PC or mobile device (tablets and smartphones) markets.
The foundation for that future is being laid right now, and (perhaps rightly so) Intel is being punished by investors for the decisions it has taken in pursuit of those goals. Rather than reduce capital expenditure in response to slowing sales, for instance, Intel is pouring more funds into infrastructure and next-generation manufacturing processes.
Though it forecasts "low single-digit percentage increase" in revenue due to challenges in the PC segment, in 2013, Intel plans to spend about $13 billion on capital equipment -- in furtherance of 14 nanometer and 10 nanometer plans. Capex for 2012 was about the same level as is now being projected for 2013.