The following three were promoted to the level of executive vice president in the same press release that announced Otellini's retirement, which was interpreted as indicating they were top contenders:
Brian Krzanich, chief operating officer and head of worldwide manufacturing. He is considered the obvious choice, based on Intel's history of COOs moving into the CEO spot. Plus, manufacturing has always been a top priority at Intel.
Stacy Smith, chief financial officer and director of corporate strategy. Like Otellini, Smith's background is business and not engineering, so if they are looking for an MBA type, Smith fits the bill.
Renée James, general manager of Intel's software and services group. She is also chairman of McAfee and Wind River Systems, software companies that Intel acquired and made into subsidiaries. In fact, software has become a huge business for Intel. Revenue from software and services jumped from $264 million in 2010 to more than $1.8 billion for Intel last year. James is also a key player in Intel's relationship with Microsoft.
The other two frequently mentioned internal candidates are:
David Perlmutter, executive vice president, general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, and chief product officer. He is responsible for all of Intel's platforms, including datacenters, desktops, laptops, handhelds, embedded devices, and consumer electronics. Of all the candidates, Perlmutter is the purest "semiconductor guy." He was general manager of the microprocessor division, then general manager of the Mobility Group, where he oversaw mobile microprocessor development, including the Centrino and, more recently, the low-power Atom.
Diane Bryant, vice president and general manager of Intel's sales in datacenters, cloud, and servers, called the Datacenter and Connected Systems Group. The group generated more than $10 billion in revenue in 2011. According to Bryant's bio on the Intel Website, "Intel now powers more than nine of every 10 servers sold worldwide." Previously, she served as Intel's CIO.
Could Intel become the first semiconductor company to smash the glass ceiling? It would be refreshing to see the old boy network of the chip industry shaken up by a woman CEO. In fact, such male-dominated networks may have outlived their usefulness. Now that IBM and HP—both major Intel customers—are headed by women, the time may be right for a female CEO at Intel.
Tam Harbert is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. This article originally appeared on EBN, an EE Times sister site.