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Can Intel’s ‘boy marvel’ pull a Steve Jobs?

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Pat Gelsinger left Intel Corp. more than a decade ago when it became clear that after 30 years with the company, he would not become a CEO.

He finally got his dream job on Wednesday but is faced with quite the task of bringing the chip giant back to the glory days he was a part of.

Gelsinger is leaving his position as managing director of VMWare Inc. VMW, -6.79% to take over his former employer at what is perhaps the most critical point in Intel’s long and storied history. An active investor who was once an industry leader demands change and is the target of numerous shareholder lawsuits.

More from Therese: How did Intel lose its Silicon Valley crown?

Gelsinger started his career at Intel at the age of 18. During his 30-year tenure, he said in a statement to employees that he was “honored to be cared for at the feet of Intel co-founders Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore and Andy,” Hain. In 2000 he eventually became the company’s first chief technology officer and held other senior positions. In 2009 he moved to EMC Corp., now part of Dell Technologies Inc. DELL, -7.19%.

“It’s the biggest return on a prodigal son since Steve Jobs returned to Apple AAPL, + 1.62%,
Nathan Brookwood, an analyst at Insight64, told MarketWatch.

He was also the architect of the company’s 80486 processor, also known as the 486, for personal computers. He has both technical qualifications and, more recently, experience leading an enterprise software company in the cloud computing market. This market – more than Gelsinger’s past PC market – is currently Intel’s biggest growth area and the place where the next big battles will begin, as graphics chip maker Nvidia Corp. The processor designer ARM Holdings of Softbank Group Corp. has made NVDA clear with its purchase plans with + 0.35%. 9984, + 2.82%.

“He’s a ‘perfect storm’ CEO for Intel,” said Robert Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, to MarketWatch. “Because of his experience at EMC / VMware, he has a good understanding of Intel and what makes it successful and what Intel currently needs.”

As Intel has fallen behind in its manufacturing process technology, the company has considered transferring some of its manufacturing to leading contract manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. TSM to outsource or not, -3.07%..
Change is expected to be slow, but generally speaking, Gelsinger is seen as a strong hope to bring the company back to its leadership position.

“We couldn’t imagine a better candidate as Intel’s CEO,” said Raymond James analyst Chris Caso in a statement to customers.

That sentiment was widespread, causing Intel stocks to surge nearly 8% on Wednesday.

As Gelsinger Intel in 2009 for EMC Corp. left, Intel had made a number of leadership changes as part of its well-planned CEO succession, and analysts said at the time it was clear that Gelsinger was ultimately not in the running to be named CEO.

Brian Krzanich was named CEO in 2013, but his tenure was far from stellar and, under his control, there were significant delays in manufacturing the company. He left in a storm of controversy over a previous relationship with another Intel employee and was eventually replaced by then Chief Financial Officer Bob Swan.

As of 2019: With the election of Bob Swan, Intel has blamed the bean counters for the most famous technology company in Silicon Valley

At the time, Gelsinger’s name emerged as a perfect candidate for returning to Intel after being outside the company for a while, also combining insider knowledge from the past. However, he said he was not interested in the job.

Gelsinger is now arriving at the right time. Intel needed Swan to clean up the mess Krzanich had made, and now it takes Gelsinger to break new ground.

“[Krzanich] Intel has broken so much that Intel has lagged behind a two-year technical lead to three years, “said Enderle. He said the situation was similar to the US when he moved on to President-elect Biden, a former vice president and senator “who understands the country’s plumbing”.

“Gelsinger is like a top racing driver and Bob Swan was like the mechanic,” he said. “They needed Swan to fix the plumbing, get the company back up and running, and hire a top driver to fix the rest.

See also: Biden inherits a technical cold war with China after Trump ends the battle

He added that Krzanich also killed Intel’s Developer Forum (IDF), a developer conference that Gelsinger started there in his day and that was useful for both entering information and for establishing relationships with industry developers. Nvidia used this concept to create support for its CUDA platform.

While at Intel, Gelsinger was often referred to as “the boy’s wonder” because he rose up the ranks at a young age, impressing tough and famously paranoid former Intel CEO Andy Grove. Gelsinger’s ties to Grove and the earnest recognition of his leadership should help raise morale at Intel, which struggled under Swan, its first non-Intel CEO.

The big question now is what Gelsinger will do about Intel’s manufacturing situation. It’s likely that, as the old school Intel executive, Gelsinger is tending to expand on his current hybrid approach of keeping most of Intel manufacturing in-house but potentially more outsourcing. But he will also have new ideas for change after disappearing from the giant for so many years.

Caso put it bluntly. “Gelsinger will not bring a miracle drug on February 15,” he wrote. “We see Intel as a ‘burning platform’, analogous to Nokia a decade ago. If Intel chooses to fully outsource, they will never again have transistor dominance, making it difficult to maintain their dominant stake and margin structure. ”

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Insight64’s Brookwood said another important role for Gelsginer will be to stop the drain of engineering talent from the company. “If Gelsinger can stop the loss of tech talent and restore people’s confidence that Intel can return to technology leadership, I think that’s all for the good,” he said.

Regardless of what Gelsinger does, he’s likely to get more board and Intel support than Swan.

“It is the greatest honor of my career to return to Intel at such a critical time for innovation as the digitization of everything is accelerating,” said Gelsinger in his email.

With a long history at Intel and technical qualifications, employees will know Gelsinger is serious. After his previous love-hate relationship with the chip giant, Gelsinger appears to be the leader who can lead Intel out of the chaos it currently finds itself in.

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