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Expert Advice for the New Intel CEO

Expert Advice for the New Intel CEO
by Daniel Nenni on 02-15-2021 at 10:00 am

Pat Gelsinger Intel CEO

Intel is a semiconductor legend. Founded on July 18, 1968, the name Intel is short for Integrated Electronics. After leading Silicon Valley, the United Sates, and the world into the era of semiconductors through technical excellence, Intel has hit some challenging times. There has been quite a bit of CEO drama that we will look at but the root cause is the delay of new process technologies. After dominating semiconductor manufacturing for most of its corporate life, Intel has fallen behind Samsung and TSMC. I grew up with Intel here in Silicon Valley and it pains me to see this. The question is can Intel regain the lead?

First the CEO drama:

After almost 40 years of technical leadership:
Robert Noyce (Ph.D in physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Gordon Moore (Ph.D in chemistry and physics, California Institute of Technology)
Andrew Grove (Ph.D. in chemical engineering, University of California-Berkeley)
Craig Barrett (Ph.D. in materials science, Stanford University)

Less technical CEOs followed:
Paul Ottelini (MBA, University California of Berkeley)
Brian M. Krzanich (  BS chemistry, San Jose State University)
Bob Swan ( MBA, Binghamton University)

Now Intel has Pat Gelsinger (MSEE, EE & CS, Stanford University ) with 30+ years at Intel working under Gordon Moore and Andy Grove, so some say, “Problem solved” and I might agree.

The challenge I see now is that Intel is still a very top heavy company (too many managers/MBAs) that are living in the past. Anyone that thinks an IDM can compete with the foundries and their respective ecosystems of world wide customers, partners, and suppliers head-to-head is dead wrong. Do you remember when Intel said, “It is the beginning of the end for the fabless model” in 2012 ? I certainly do.

Moving forward it’s VERY important that Intel change the rules of engagement to better compete with this new fast paced fabless model.

So, today Pat takes the helm at Intel and here is the advice that I offer him for his first 100 days:

  1. Streamline the decision making processes inside of Intel. Yes, this means layoffs and re-orgs but it has to be done. Intel needs to be optimized for a fast paced ultra-competitive semiconductor marketplace.
  2. Bring transparency to Intel. No more surprises. When you surprise us with delays and technical challenges, we doubt Intel. And there are no secrets in the semiconductor ecosystem. We now know the truth behind the 10nm delays so be transparent and earn the respect and trust that Intel deserves.
  3. Take a leadership position in process node naming. Read the blog by Scott Jones on “Equivalent Nodes” (EN) and bring technology back to node naming.
  4. Engage TSMC in an exclusive relationship and outsource power and price sensitive chips. I would also give the FPGA business back to TSMC to better compete with AMD/Xilinx. Stick with your core manufacturing competency and focus the Intel fabs on high performance high margin CPUs. As they say, keep your friends close, keep your competition closer.
  5. Rid yourself of non-core competency business. Mobileye and the other distractions must go.
  6. Be a leader in the semiconductor ecosystem and not an outsider or follower. Roll up your corporate sleeves, get to work, and play well with others.

Bottom line: Make Intel synonymous with innovation and leadership again and get back on top of the semiconductor leader board where Intel belongs, absolutely!

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