Two years ago, Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC) board of directors chose Brian Krzanich, who was formerly the company's Chief Operating Officer, to be the company's new CEO following Paul Otellini's retirement.
I believe that, ahead of the company's investor meeting on Nov. 19, it's worth examining Krzanich's track record since taking the helm of the world's largest semiconductor company. Is he proving to be the right man for the job? Let's take a closer look.
Holding the line in PCs, investing aggressively in data centers
To Krzanich's credit, the company has done well to protect its competitive positioning within the PC and server markets. To be clear, the products Intel is selling today in these markets and the ones that it will be selling in the near future were essentially given the green light under prior CEO Paul Otellini, but I believe Krzanich and the general managers of these segments are doing what's necessary to maintain leadership in these markets going forward.
Further, under Krzanich, the company made the decision to acquire programmable logic vendor Altera (NASDAQ: ALTR), a move that should open up some very interesting business opportunities for the company in the years ahead.
Additionally, Intel networking general manager Sandra Rivera said at a recent event that the company has doubled its research and development spending in networking, a market that the company estimates to be worth around $18 billion in 2015. Given the fairly large opportunity ahead of the company, it's good to see Krzanich green-lighting aggressive investment, here.
All told, as an Intel investor, I believe Krzanich is doing a solid job holding the line in PCs and is positioning the company well to continue to grow its data center business nicely in the years ahead.
A Moore's Law mess
Although Krzanich has done a good job with the company's core business units, the same can't be said in other areas.
Intel is currently struggling mightily with its 14-nanometer chip manufacturing process, with product costs actually higher than their 22-nanometer counterparts more than a year after high volume production of the process began. It is not clear when the company will finally resolve these issues, but from what I've been told privately, things aren't going well.
Additionally, Intel saw a significant slip in its 10-nanometer manufacturing technology plans. Originally planned to be "ready" in late 2015, Intel is now publicly signaling to investors that products built on this technology won't hit the market until the second half of 2017.
Under Krzanich, Intel has -- surprisingly quickly -- gone from a company with very clear manufacturing leadership over its competitors to a company that is at very serious risk of seeing this lead evaporate over the next five years.
Mobile is a complete disaster
Additionally, Intel's mobile efforts have been nothing short of disastrous under Krzanich. To be fair, much of the product portfolio Intel is trying to sell was green-lit before Krzanich took the helm. However, the products Krzanich has overseen (i.e., SoFIA 3G and LTE) have been late and/or lackluster, and the products that were in the pipeline before he took over have also seen delays.
For example, Krzanich had said that the company's next high-end mobile applications processor for phones/tablets, known as Broxton (in development before Krzanich took over), would be "ready" in mid-2015; it ultimately ended up slipping into 2016.
Intel's SoFIA products, which integrate Intel-designed applications processors with Intel's cellular modems and were conceived under Krzanich's watch, have also seen significant delays. The company originally planned to have its first SoFIA product with LTE capability arrive in the market later this year, but it has been pushed out to the first half of 2016.
Krzanich had also told investors to expect the first SoFIA LTE product built on Intel's own 14-nanometer manufacturing technology to arrive in either late 2015 or early 2016, but this product is now slated for a second half of 2016 release (fourth quarter, per a report from DigiTimes).
Maybe things will get better in the coming years, but it's hard to have confidence in light of the very poor execution seen here so far.
The verdict on Krzanich so far?
From what I can tell, Krzanich has done a good job protecting and extending the company's already successful businesses. Not to take away from this achievement, but I can't imagine that the other candidates who were considered for the CEO role would have had a hard time with that.
When it comes to the real challenges -- developing leadership products for the hyper-competitive mobile market as well as defending and extending the company's leadership in chip manufacturing technology in the face of increasingly fierce competition -- the company has not done particularly well.
The tale isn't written without respect to Krzanich's tenure as Intel CEO, but so far, I'm not very impressed and believe the executive still needs to prove himself.