Industry visionary and former Intel CEO Paul Otellini has passed away

4 Oct 2017

Former Intel CEO, the late Paul Otellini. Image: Intel Corporation

With an instinctive grasp of customer needs, Otellini presided over Intel’s evolution into the cloud computing era.

Former Intel CEO Paul Otellini has passed away at just 66 years of age.

Paul Otellini became Intel’s fifth CEO in 2005 and remained at the helm until 2013, passing the reins of the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer to present CEO Brian Krzanich.

‘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’

Otellini helped Intel transition from the PC era to the cloud computing and data centre era, and laid the groundwork for the company’s evolution towards the internet of things and artificial intelligence (AI).

He helped Intel establish leadership in the critical server chip business and also landed crucial deals that hold to today, such as winning the Apple business for its notebook and desktop products.

He also oversaw significant expansion by Intel in Ireland, including the construction of new wafer fabrication facilities as the scale of fabrication went from 65nm down to today’s 14nm. Intel has invested $12.5bn in Ireland since it came here in 1989 and today it employs close to 5,000 people in the country.

As well as technological gains, Otellini also presided over Intel’s significant financial gains, including surpassing its first $14bn quarter in 2012. During his leadership, Intel’s annual revenues went from $34bn in sales to $53bn in sales.

The customer is always right

Born in San Francisco in 1950, Otellini was a different cut to most Intel leaders in that he wasn’t your typical engineer-turned-executive. Instead, he was an economics graduate with an MBA from Berkeley.

‘You’re always betting on the future’

He rose through the ranks to run components and microcomputer divisions and served as founder and former CEO Andy Grove’s chief of staff, as well as heading the Intel Architecture Group and leading its Sales and Marketing Group.

“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’s business acumen, optimism and dedication fueled our growth throughout his tenure as CEO,” Intel chair Andy Bryant said. “His tireless drive, discipline and humility were cornerstones of his leadership and live on in our company values to this day.”

Otellini visited Ireland on a number of occasions during his leadership. In 2006, during the opening of the Fab 24-2 facility he told how companies like Intel are always anticipating the computing needs of tomorrow.

“Every time we build one of these [manufacturing facilities, as in Leixlip], we plunk down $3bn, we say we’re building platforms for products that don’t exist yet. You’re always betting on the future.”

He also demonstrated his instinctive grasp of the computing needs of customers. “What is an average user? How many of us now are looking at videos on These higher-performance machines are needed to do that. You don’t want to wait for a movie to download. Simplistically viewing home computing as email and doing your taxes is a very narrow view of the world. Using the PC as an archive for family records and photos, or for video-conferencing when travelling to keep in touch with your kids — all of that needs more performance.”

Otellini is survived by his wife of 30 years, Sandy, his son Patrick and his daughter Alexis.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years