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Can Intel's New Chief Revive the Sagging PC Business?

Intel's decision to name Brian Krzanich as its sixth CEO comes as the CPU giant is looking to breathe new life to its x86 PC architecture, among many other challenges facing the world's largest manufacturer of processors. Krzanich was an odds-on favorite to succeed Paul Otellini, who in November caught Intel's board off guard when he said he would step down three years earlier than expected.

Otellini's premature retirement left Intel's board scrambling to name a successor with a search that included both outside and internal candidates. The company yesterday stuck with tradition in naming a longtime insider. Krzanich, who joined the company over three decades ago at the age of 22, is now the company's chief operating officer.

While many analysts predicted Krzanich would get the top job, the company also promoted long-shot candidate Renée James, Intel's software head, as its new president. Krzanich is known for his manufacturing chops while James is credited with advancing Intel into next-generation devices, though that work is far from complete.

Both understand that while the WinTel dynasty that once fueled huge revenue and profit growth no longer embodies everything Intel and Microsoft do, it's still a huge business for both companies. Nevertheless Intel will never rely solely on Microsoft to boot up its processors, while Redmond also has turned to many of Intel's rivals such as ARM licensees including NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

With questions about who will fill Otellini's shoes out of the way, both companies have a lot at stake with next month's anticipated announcements of new PCs based on Intel's new Haswell low-power CPUs. If they push the envelope as expected -- offering 2x to 4x improvements in battery life while providing added graphics capabilities, new Windows 8 machines could become more desirable, especially if the forthcoming upgrade enamors potential customers.

Consumers and enterprises alike are buying new PCs -- they're just not purchasing them in droves the way they once did, as noted in yesterday's report that Windows 8 now accounted for 3.8 percent of all PCs in use as of April. This is up from 3.2 percent in March. They're also stretching the lives of their old machines longer than in the past because they're not the only device they rely on. And, for many, there's no compelling reason yet to upgrade, which undoubtedly contributed to last quarter's worse-than-expected decline in PC shipments, reported last month.

With Haswell and Intel's hybrid laptop design called North Cape, it will be up to the company and Microsoft with Blue, aka Windows 8.1, to change that along with the WinTel ecosystem. Are you optimistic that will happen? Drop me a line at [email protected].


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 05/03/2013 at 1:15 PM


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