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Paul Otellini, Former Intel CEO, Passes Away

Paul Otellini, chief executive of Intel from 2005 to 2013, passed away in his sleep on Monday, October 2, 2017, Intel has announced. Mr. Otellini was Intel’s first CEO who did not have a technology educational background, and yet spent his entire career at Intel. During his tenure at one of the world’s largest chipmakers, he had a significant impact on the company’s business and technology development.

“We are deeply saddened by Paul’s passing,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said. “He was the relentless voice of the customer in a sea of engineers, and he taught us that we only win when we put the customer first.”

Paul Otellini was born in San Francisco on October 12, 1950. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of San Francisco in 1972, then an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley in 1974. Mr. Otellini joined Intel in 1974 and then held various positions at the company for 39 years before he retired in 2013.

Despite the fact that he did not have any educational background in technology, his impact on Intel (and therefore on the whole IT industry) is hard to overstate. For example, he used to run Intel Architecture Group, responsible for developing CPUs and chipsets as well as the company’s strategies for desktop, mobile and enterprise computing. Besides, he used to be the general manager of Intel’s Sales and Marketing Group, before becoming COO in 2002 and CEO in 2005.

One of his main accomplishments in the early 2000s was Intel’s shift from CPU development to platform development. Until Intel launched its Centrino platform (CPU, chipset, Wi-Fi controller) in 2003, the company focused primarily on microprocessor design, leaving parts of the chipset business and other chips to third parties, such as VIA Technologies or SiS. Centrino demonstrated that a platform approach yields better financial results, as the company could sell more chips per PC than before.

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Later on, Mr. Otellini re-organized Intel around platforms for client and server machines, which streamlined development of the company’s compute solutions in general. The company’s financial results were strong even during the global economic recession from 2008 to 2010. In fact, he managed to increase Intel’s revenues from $34 billion in 2004 to $53 billion in 2012.

Among the big victories of Mr. Otellini that Intel names his win of Apple’s PC business: until 2006, Apple used PowerPC processors, but switched to Intel’s x86 architectures completely in the period from early 2006 to early 2008. It took Mr. Otellini nearly a decade to put Intel’s chips inside Macintosh computer. He first met Steve Jobs when he was still at NeXT in the late 1990s and kept meeting with him regularly until the deal was signed in 2005.

“Intel had a reputation for being a tough partner, coming out of the days when it was run by Andy Grove and Craig Barrett,” said Mr. Otellini in Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs book. “I wanted to show that Intel was a company you could work with. So a crack team from Intel worked with Apple, and they were able to beat the conversion deadline by six months.”

Eventually, Intel did not win Apple’s mobile contract due to various factors, but Mr. Otellini was quick to address one of Intel platforms’ main drawback: slow integrated GPUs. During his famous presentation at IDF in 2007, Mr. Otellini announced plans to increase performance of the company’s iGPUs by 10 times by 2010, but in reality the company did better than that. In fact, Intel has increased its iGPU performance quite dramatically in the last 10 years, a clear indicator that Paul Otellini and his team considered Intel’s weaknesses seriously and set up a foundation to overcome them.

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Paul Otellini is survived by his wife Sandy (with whom they were married for 30 years), his son Patrick and his daughter Alexis.

Related Reading:

  • Andrew S. Grove, Former CEO and Chairman of Intel, Passes Away Aged 79

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