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Bulletins

Pat Gelsinger helped Intel make history. Now he has to give it a future.

Production missteps and keen competition have hurt the company. Its former CTO now has to put things right.

Pat Gelsinger

No pressure, Pat.

Image: Web Summit

Intel unveiled a big leadership change today that signals a return to its roots as the chip giant struggles to regain its old luster.


The company announced Wednesday that CEO Bob Swan is stepping down and will be replaced by Pat Gelsinger, VMware's CEO, who had served as the chip giant's first chief technology officer.

The change sent Intel shares rallying on Wall Street, seen as a smart move for the tech giant in the wake of production stumbles that weakened its market position. Gelsinger will take over on Feb. 15, the company announced.

"This is a great move for Intel," IDC president Crawford Del Prete told Protocol. "Intel needs to get back to its technology and manufacturing roots in order to compete in a changed landscape."

Intel's dominant position in the semiconductor market has taken a hit over the past year following a series of production missteps and more aggressive competition from archrival AMD.

Some analysts have argued that Intel's woes are due partly to Swan's background. Swan joined Intel in 2016 as chief financial officer under then CEO Brian Krzanich. He became interim CEO after Krzanich's sudden departure in June 2018, and was named permanent CEO in early 2019.

Unlike most of his predecessors — including Krzanich, Andrew Grove and Craig Barrett, who are all engineers — Swan's background is in finance. Under his leadership, Intel was rocked by production missteps that caused serious delays and enabled AMD to gain market share, especially in the data center market.

In July 2020, Intel shares plunged after the company announced that the rollout of its next generation products will be delayed. The company said it had encountered problems related to its 7-nanometer process, referring to the manufacturing technology based on the line-width on chips. It was a surprising announcement given Intel's track record in producing smaller and less expensive processors.

Intel's recent unprecedented manufacturing stumbles prompted some analysts to argue that the company needed a different leader. "They need a technical leader, and Bob is an accountant," Marty Wolf, president of Martinwolf M&A Advisory Firm, told Protocol.

But Bernstein analyst Stacy Rasgon said Intel's problems started before Swan took over, and praised his leadership at a difficult time for the tech titan.

"I don't think the issues that are there are Bob's fault," he told Protocol. "Bob is a very good general purpose CEO."

But he said an Intel CEO "has to have the background to be able to make decisions based on what he's hearing and Bob, by his own admission, doesn't have that background. He doesn't have any sort of intrinsic way to parse what he's hearing in order to make the call, one way or the other. … Is he the right guy to be leading the company when their technology moat is eroding? That's the core issue."

Gelsinger had spent 30 years at Intel before moving on to leadership roles at EMC and VMware. Rasgon called him "an admittedly good hire."

"He will be seen as a potential shot in the arm to attempt fixing both the company's technical, as well as cultural, issues," Rasgon said in a note to clients.

IDC's Del Prete echoed that point, describing Gelsinger as a "strong executor" who "created a stronger relationship between Intel and developers" during his time at the semiconductor company.

"I have always found Pat to be a strong, empathetic, modern leader," he said. "He is extremely well-regarded by his team and within the industry. He is a rare combination of having very strong technical, business and social skills that make him a rare approachable, technical business leader… He's a unique leader."

This story was updated throughout to include analysis of the news. Initial reporting by Shakeel Hashim.

The metaverse is coming, and Robinhood's IPO is here

Plus, what we learned from Big Tech's big quarter.

Image: Roblox

On this episode of the Source Code podcast: First, a few takeaways from another blockbuster quarter in the tech industry. Then, Janko Roettgers joins the show to discuss Big Tech's obsession with the metaverse and the platform war that seems inevitable. Finally, Ben Pimentel talks about Robinhood's IPO, and the company's crazy route to the public markets.

For more on the topics in this episode:

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David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

After a year and a half of living and working through a pandemic, it's no surprise that employees are sending out stress signals at record rates. According to a 2021 study by Indeed, 52% of employees today say they feel burnt out. Over half of employees report working longer hours, and a quarter say they're unable to unplug from work.

The continued swell of reported burnout is a concerning trend for employers everywhere. Not only does it harm mental health and well-being, but it can also impact absenteeism, employee retention and — between the drain on morale and high turnover — your company culture.

Crisis management is one thing, but how do you permanently lower the temperature so your teams can recover sustainably? Companies around the world are now taking larger steps to curb burnout, with industry leaders like LinkedIn, Hootsuite and Bumble shutting down their offices for a full week to allow all employees extra time off. The CEO of Okta, worried about burnout, asked all employees to email him their vacation plans in 2021.

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Stella Garber
Stella Garber is Trello's Head of Marketing. Stella has led Marketing at Trello for the last seven years from early stage startup all the way through its acquisition by Atlassian in 2017 and beyond. Stella was an early champion of remote work, having led remote teams for the last decade plus.

Facebook wants to be like Snapchat

Facebook is looking to make posts disappear, Google wants to make traffic reports more accurate, and more patents from Big Tech.

Facebook has ephemeral posts on its mind.

Image: Protocol

Welcome to another week of Big Tech patents. Google wants to make traffic reports more accurate, Amazon wants to make voice assistants more intelligent, Microsoft wants to make scheduling meetings more convenient, and a ton more.

As always, remember that the big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future

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Karyne Levy

Karyne Levy ( @karynelevy) is the West Coast editor at Protocol. Before joining Protocol, Karyne was a senior producer at Scribd, helping to create the original content program. Prior to that she was an assigning editor at NerdWallet, a senior tech editor at Business Insider, and the assistant managing editor at CNET, where she also hosted Rumor Has It for CNET TV. She lives outside San Francisco with her wife, son and lots of pets.

Protocol | China

China’s edtech crackdown isn’t what you think. Here’s why.

It's part of an attempt to fix education inequality and address a looming demographic crisis.

In the past decade, China's private tutoring market has expanded rapidly as it's been digitized and bolstered by capital.

Photo: Getty Images

Beijing's strike against the private tutoring and ed tech industry has rattled the market and led observers to try to answer one big question: What is Beijing trying to achieve?

Sweeping policy guidelines issued by the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party on July 24 and the State Council now mandate that existing private tutoring companies register as nonprofit organizations. Extracurricular tutoring companies will be banned from going public. Online tutoring agencies will be subject to regulatory approval.

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Shen Lu

Shen Lu is a reporter with Protocol | China. She has spent six years covering China from inside and outside its borders. Previously, she was a fellow at Asia Society's ChinaFile and a Beijing-based producer for CNN. Her writing has appeared in Foreign Policy, The New York Times and POLITICO, among other publications. Shen Lu is a founding member of Chinese Storytellers, a community serving and elevating Chinese professionals in the global media industry.

It’s soul-destroying and it uses DRM, therefore Peloton is tech

"I mean, the pedals go around if you turn off all the tech, but Peloton isn't selling a pedaling product."

Is this tech? Or is it just a bike with a screen?

Image: Peloton and Protocol

One of the breakout hits from the pandemic, besides Taylor Swift's "Folklore," has been Peloton. With upwards of 5.4 million members as of March and nearly $1.3 billion in revenue that quarter, a lot of people are turning in their gym memberships for a bike or a treadmill and a slick-looking app.

But here at Protocol, it's that slick-looking app, plus all the tech that goes into it, that matters. And that's where things got really heated during our chat this week. Is Peloton tech? Or is it just a bike with a giant tablet on it? Can all bikes be tech with a little elbow grease?

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Karyne Levy

Karyne Levy ( @karynelevy) is the West Coast editor at Protocol. Before joining Protocol, Karyne was a senior producer at Scribd, helping to create the original content program. Prior to that she was an assigning editor at NerdWallet, a senior tech editor at Business Insider, and the assistant managing editor at CNET, where she also hosted Rumor Has It for CNET TV. She lives outside San Francisco with her wife, son and lots of pets.

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