Intel vs GM: What’s In Store for Intel’s New CEO, President

Today chip giant Intel announced outgoing CEO Paul Otellini’s replacement: he’s Brian Krzanich, former Intel COO and likely an Intel lifer. As Otellini bids goodbye at the annual stockholders’ meeting on May 16, Krzanich moves in as the company’s sixth CEO since founding.

Intel's CEO-elect, former COO Brian Krzanich

Intel’s CEO-elect, former COO Brian Krzanich

Krzanich (52) is about my age and has been with the company since 1982. Although I didn’t do a resume search on the man, I’ll bet he joined Intel shortly after college and has been there his whole career. That worries me: not because of his skill set which is undoubtedly exemplary, but because Intel’s challenges in the post-PC era are so acute that they need an outsider’s view of things, despite having so many awesome technology advantages.

The Intel Advantage, as shown at IDF 2012, includes hardware, software, partnerships, and a killer ecosystem.

The Intel Advantage, as shown at IDF 2012, includes hardware, software, partnerships, and a killer ecosystem.

Using GM as a warning example, all those years of “Roger and Me” insider management bred complacency, NIH, and too much familiarity at GM. It’s only now, post TARP government bailout that General Motors is getting into fighting trim again (although the European Opel division admittedly remains an anomaly).

One of Intel's many IC announcements at IDF 2012, preparing for Haswell.

One of Intel’s many IC announcements at IDF 2012, preparing for Haswell.

Still, I’m a big fan of Intel and I routinely write glowing articles about the company’s incredible Core i5/i7 CPUs, limited successes in smartphones, OSes like Tizen, or broad initiatives like HTML5 in IVI automotive. But they’ve missed the boat on embedded, are playing catch-up in smartphones, and have yet to publicly unveil a low power processor roadmap that’s comparable to ARM. Even on-the-ropes AMD has doubled down in embedded by announcing at DESIGN West new APU SoCs (x86 CPU + Radeon GPU + Southbridge peripherals).

Renee James becomes Prez

Intel's new president Renee James, shown here at IDF 2012 wowing the crowd with new software ecosystem announcements.

Intel’s new president Renee James, shown here at IDF 2012 wowing the crowd with new software ecosystem announcements.

As Intel made public their new CEO, the announcement also said that Renee James becomes the company’s president. Ms. James has run the company’s huge (and growing) software group and also oversees the McAfee and Wind River subsidiaries. I like Renee a lot and am pleased at the many successes unveiled under her leadership: Yocto, Tizen, HTML5, third party programs, multicore development tools, and so on. Clearly she understands that complex hardware like Core i7 CPUs needs equally sophisticated software. One tiny successful example is how Intel and Microsoft are working together to wring more power savings out of Windows machines.

So in Renee I am confident; in Mr. Krzanich I have high hopes that he’ll break the trend of predictable Intel behavior and instead act like an outsider and do what’s necessary. That is: shake things up by recognizing the market is embedded, the competition is ARM, and that Intel needs to get cracking. On both fronts, Intel has a bit of catching up to do.

Like today’s General Motors, Intel is extremely credible and very capable of pulling a hat trick. Their process technology is second to none (ask Altera), all the IC and hardware designers I’ve ever met are brilliant, and the company has tons of software IP on which to build a winning strategy and embedded product portfolio.

1960 Chevrolet Corvair. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1960_Chevrolet_Corvair.JPG)

1960 Chevrolet Corvair. (Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1960_Chevrolet_Corvair.JPG)

Intel will win if they ditch a few “unsafe at any speed” Corvairs and give the market what it really wants: another 1969 Z28 (in yellow with 4-wheel discs, thank you). I’ll instead take my next smartphone with Intel SoC in SS Trim and Nokia yellow.