Intel CEO-in-waiting Brian Krzanich -- well, he only has to wait until May 16 -- has a tall order on his hands. He has to segue the world's largest semiconductor manufacturer away from a perceived overreliance on laptop microprocessors. And quickly.
His partner in this effort will be Renee James, the executive vice president of Intel's Software and Services Group. On May 16, she will become Intel president. Interestingly, the verbiage from Intel about the ascension of Krzanich and James explicitly notes that, together, they will constitute "the company's two-person Executive Office."
That's significant because it indicates that most of Thursday's press reports are inadvertently -- because they're based on Intel's press release -- giving James short shrift insofar as her role going forward. That job, if I'm correctly parsing the background I received from a company insider, is that Krzanich and James together are chartered with implementing a brand new internal strategy for Intel.
Whether that plan will slake investor and Wall Street analyst complaints is anyone's guess. For years, Intel investors have been crying, like the "We Want More" girl in the AT&T commercial, for diversification into communications, mobile and tablets. Software is also on the list.
In fairness to outgoing CEO Paul Otellini, one must point out that he worked hard to begin that diversification. Otellini was front and center in 2004, when single-core processors began to get too hot -- literally; processor thermal design power (TDP) was threatening to rise to 150W and more. In response, Otellini began and championed Intel's move to multicore processors.
True, Intel did sell its ARM-based XScale product line to Marvell in 2006 under Otellini's watch. At the time, that was clearly done for financial reasons. In retrospect, it may have temporarily derailed Intel's comms progress.
Indeed, back then, ARM hadn't quite emerged as the threat it is today. At the same time, the thinking about the need for diversification well predates the XScale sale, so there was some cognitive dissonance involved at the time insofar as Intel's comms strategy goes. And it's easy, though patently unfair, to engage in Thursday morning quarterbacking today.
Personally, I'd say diversification first surfaced in the industry's collective unconscious towards the end of Craig Barrett's reign. Barrett was CEO from 1998 until 2005, when he became chairman and Otellini took over as CEO. The hallmark of Barrett's time in office was the release of the uber-high-end Itanium processor in 2002. It's fair to say that device has met with mixed success.
Bad rap though Itanium might have received, its technology has trickled down through the Intel ecosystem, in much the same way Xeon's smart architectural bits have slowly but steadily migrated into the mainstream Core brand.