Robert “Bob” Swan, the seventh full-time CEO of Intel, will step down from his position on February 15th, 2021. Pat Gelsinger (pictured), the current CEO of VMWare and a 30-year veteran of Intel, who previously helped design the original 80486 CPU, will replace him. Gelsinger is well-regarded both in the chip-design and leadership worlds, and was tipped as a potential successor for Steve Ballmer as Microsoft CEO in 2013. Gelsinger will take the reins at a company locked in a struggle to fix its manufacturing problems and make up lost ground against its rivals.
In a statement, Intel Executive Chairman Omar Ishrak says that Gelsinger has a “distinguished track record of innovation, talent development and a deep knowledge of Intel.” He added that the board hopes Gelsinger will use his expertise to steer Intel through a “critical period of transformation” from a “CPU to a multi-architecture XPU company.” In short, from a company that just makes PC chips, to a company that makes any-and-every sort of chip.
Swan was elevated from the CFO role to CEO in June 2018 after spending seven months as the company’s interim leader. He replaced Brian Krzanich, who stepped down that year after details of a relationship he had with an Intel employee were leaked. Many of the problems that Intel has suffered through were inherited from Krzanich’s time, most notably around chip fabrication.
Intel failed to deliver its first 10-nanometer chips on time in 2016 because of falling yields -- the number of functional chips it could make in a production run. Ever since then, it has struggled to maintain pace with its rivals, and TSMC began boasting that it could now make a 5-nanometer chip. Of course, not all chips are equal, but in the PC space, AMD is now able to outperform Intel chips in a number of scenarios.
Swan’s tenure also saw the high-profile departure of Apple as one of Intel’s customers as the company moved to use its own silicon. The iPhone maker was not a big buyer of Intel’s silicon, and its size relative to the rest of the PC industry was small, but the optics of losing such a client were pretty big. As CNBC reports, activist investors had been pushing for Intel to make a change, adding that Swan’s critics saw him as a business-and-finance guy, at odds with Intel’s engineering-led culture.