Intel's do-or-die duo

  @FortuneMagazine October 10, 2013: 9:24 AM ET
TEL28 krzanich james
(Fortune)

On a Saturday morning in late April, members of Intel's board of directors settled into a meeting room at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif., for a top-secret gathering. Flanked by security guards stationed at the ends of the hallway, they readied themselves for the onslaught of PowerPoint presentations they'd soon be viewing, querying, and analyzing.

The board's search for a new CEO had already lasted several months and included multiple waves of interviews and deliberations. This was the last stretch, a lightning round of sorts. Led by chairman and former Intel chief administrative officer Andy Bryant, the 10 directors had narrowed down the hunt to three contenders: two longtime company insiders and one external candidate. Today, each of the finalists would get another shot to make his or her case. The winner's prize? Steering the chipmaking behemoth through its toughest transition yet -- the post-PC era.

The Intel of today is a $53.3-billion-in-sales tech giant whose immense factories churn out a collective 1.5 million chips per day. Eight out of 10 PCs in the world run on the company's powerful and high-profit-margin processors. The only problem is, demand for PCs is waning fast, despite Intel's repeated efforts to reinvent the category. Last year global PC unit shipments dropped 4%, according to IDC. By the end of 2013 that number is expected to fall nearly 10% more.

It is as simple as this: The world has gone mobile. PCs are passé. And the popularity of smartphones and tablets has spawned whole industries of mobile applications, devices, operating systems, and chip architectures. Global tablet shipments are expected to eclipse PCs by 2015.

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