November 11, 2004 11:50 AM PST

Otellini: Soft-spoken, driven and an Intel lifer

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With Paul Otellini, Intel will get a CEO who is part college professor and part Cosimo de Medici.

The 54-year old executive--who will take over as Intel's CEO next May after 30 years with the company--tends to discuss the chipmaker's strategies in the context of global economics, often in intricate, paragraph-size sentences. He's been one of the advocates of lowering the cost of computers to bring them within reach of the billions of people living in emerging markets and of tapping engineering resources in countries like Russia, China and India. For a number of years, he represented Intel at the Davos World Economic Forum, mingling with the likes of the King of Jordan and Newt Gingrich.

On the other hand, he's known for launching relentless price wars that have pushed rival Advanced Micro Devices into the red.

He also was one of the figures behind Intel's push into graphics. The company's effort to make standalone graphics chips failed. But by integrating graphics into chipsets, Intel has become the world's largest producer of 3D graphics silicon in the world, pressuring Nvidia and ATI Technologies.

Intel's next CEO,
Paul Otellini

The switch to Otellini from current chief Craig Barrett could help Intel recover from some of its marketing and manufacturing missteps of recent years. Barrett was unable to fulfill Intel's strategy of more broadly diversifying into cell phones, communications equipment and other markets. Barrett is also known to be somewhat abrupt.

"Otellini is extremely smart and very personable. He'll be a breath of fresh air for Intel when he takes over as CEO," said an executive at a chip company that does extensive business with Intel. "We always perceived him as one of the good guys."

Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research, called Otellini "an appropriate choice. He certainly has a lot of experience in how Intel does things."

On the other hand, Intel might actually need the touch of an outsider, said Kevin Krewell, editor in chief of the Microprocessor Report.

"At IBM and AMD, it took someone from the outside to decide what to keep and what to get rid of. IBM and AMD were struggling before (Lou) Gerstner and Hector (Ruiz) came in," Krewell said.

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