Intel surprised the tech world Monday by announcing that President and CEO Paul Otellini plans to retire in May. But even Intel execs, it seems, were caught off guard by Otellini's plans.
According to an interview Intel Chairman and former CFO Andy Bryant held with Barron's Monday, Otellini's departure in May comes much sooner than the chip maker had hoped for.
"I did everything I can think of to buy myself another year [of Otellini's leaderhip]," Bryant told Barron's. "We were targeting further out for [his retirement]."
Otellini's sooner-than-expected departure will fall at a critical time for Intel, Bryant said. The chip maker has been racing to nab a share of the lucrative smartphone and tablet markets, especially as traditional PC sales continue to tumble.
According to Bryant, Otellini felt Intel's charge into the mobile market could be best led by a fresh set of eyes. A specific successor for the CEO role has not yet been named.
"After almost 40 years at Intel, and the Intel CEO job for eight years, which is a really hard job, [Otellini] felt it was time to move to the next generation of leadership," Bryant said in the report. "We do have big issues in front of us, moving to the tablet and phone markets, and he was ready to let the next generation lead those battles."
Otellini already has helped Intel break into the smartphone and tablet space, having brought to market Intel's low-power Atom Medfield and Clover Trail chips, which are optimized for mobile devices. Still, the chip maker faces an uphill battle against U.K.-based chip licensor ARM, whose processor architectures are already used in 90 percent of the smartphones and tablets on the market today.
Despite Otellini's departure, Bryant said getting into the mobile market will remain a top priority for Intel.
"We're shipping the most advanced [semiconductor] process, and providing chips in smartphones outside the U.S., and in tablets inside the U.S.," he told Barron's, continuing: "We’re pretty comfortable with where we are technically."
Intel channel partners told CRN Monday that they hope Otellini's replacement will be bullish when it comes to mobility and help the chip maker go toe-to-toe with ARM. They also said they hoped Intel's new leader will be just as channel-friendly as Otellini had proved to be.
According to Steve Dallman, director of Intel's North American distribution and channel marketing, Intel will always be a friend of the channel, even after Otellini has stepped down.
"Paul has always been a great supporter of the Intel reseller channel throughout his career. While he will be sorely missed both personally and professionally, his legacy will continue at Intel, which includes the channel," Dallman said.
"We will all miss him, his insight and active participation in many of our channel and distribution events and meetings," he added. "I am sad to see him go and will miss him."
PUBLISHED NOV. 20, 2012