Intel refused to make Mr. Swan and Mr. Gelsinger available for interviews.
Many of Intel’s major departures in recent years have come under the leadership of Brian Krzanich, the chief executive who was kicked out in 2018 after a consensual affair with a subordinate. But Intel took a heavy blow last year when Jim Keller, a renowned engineer who was involved in redesigning development processes, left the company.
Venkata Renduchintala, a former director of Qualcomm who had tried to help Intel recover from its manufacturing problems, also left office in 2020 after Intel revealed that its next production process would be delayed.
Mr Swan, 60, is credited with helping ease internal feuds within the company and spearheading changes to bring Intel into other markets, such as equipment for cellular base stations. He also ditched struggling companies, selling a unit that designed wireless chips to Apple and another that made a variety of memory chips to SK Hynix.
But analysts said he didn’t have the knowledge to make tough technical decisions.
“Chip problems take years to resolve, and while Swan accomplished a lot, it wasn’t enough,” said Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. He added that he expected Mr. Gelsinger to “focus on the engineering culture of the company”.
Mr Gelsinger faces formidable problems. One is how to deal with Intel’s manufacturing issues. In addition to making technical improvements, Mr Swan has signaled that Intel may take the drastic decision to overtake its own factories for some of its flagship chips. The company already uses TSMC to manufacture some products, but outsourcing some of its most important processors would be a blow to Intel’s image. The issue is expected to be resolved with Intel’s fourth quarter financial results on January 21.
Third Point also raised the question of whether Intel should continue to retain both design and manufacturing operations and whether it should part ways with some failed acquisitions.
At the same time, Intel must face the reinvigorated competition from chip designers Advanced Micro Devices and Nvidia. Both operate advanced manufacturing services in Asia, and their stock prices have jumped as Intel’s faltered.