Intel CEO Bob Swan is stepping down to be replaced by VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger

Someone with technical nous could be good for Chipzilla – the markets certainly think so


Intel CEO Bob Swan's time at the head of Chipzilla is coming to an end and Intel's first CTO, Pat Gelsinger, is to replace him.

Swan's tenure will draw to a close on 15 February and old hand (and current VMware CEO) Gelsinger will take control of the troubled chipmaker.

"Today's announcement is unrelated to Intel's 2020 financial performance," the company insisted while also bravely pointing to the "strong progress" made in its quest for 10nm and 7nm process technology.

Swan stepped into the CEO's shoes at Intel in 2019 after doing the job on an interim basis following the departure of Brian Krzanich. The following 24 months did not go swimmingly and were marked by processor shortages and a failure to ship 10nm parts in a meaningful way.

The latter likely contributed to chief engineering officer Venkata "Murthy" Renduchintala's departure in August while the former left vendors such as Lenovo and Hewlett Packard Enterprise scrambling for silicon to go in its high-end kit. Shortages also struck less esoteric PC systems, although by the middle of 2020 Intel was adamant that supply constraints were easing up.

Intel has continued to cede ground to its rivals partly due to those sub-14nm process problems delaying silicon and handing market share to the likes of chip fabricator TSMC and chip designers AMD and Arm. Infamously, Apple has also begun the process of removing Chipzilla's processors in favour of its own silicon.

The appointment of Gelsinger is in marked contrast to Swan, who spent decades as CFO. Gelsinger was Intel's first CTO and stuck around for three decades before heading off to EMC as president and COO in 2009, later becoming CEO of VMware. In its welcoming spiel for Gelsinger, Intel described him as "the architect of the original 80486 processor" as well as noting his role in the Core and Xeon families.

A more technical CEO could well be what Intel needs, and the markets certainly approve of the change at the top. At the time of writing, Intel's stock had surged 8.4 per cent.

Gelsinger will continue to serve on the VMware Board of Directors after stepping down as CEO on 12 February. Michael Dell, VMware Chairman of the Board, thanked Gelsinger for his service and said: "Pat led the company's tremendous growth and expansion and built a solid foundation for future innovation."

VMware's CFO, Zane Rowe, has been appointed as interim CEO while the company hunts for a replacement. Rowe noted that revenues had almost tripled during Gelsinger's time. ®

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