Intel's shakeup hits China group

Bruce Einhorn

Intel’s management shakeup, announced yesterday, has created a big question mark for the company in China, India and other big emerging markets. The headline changes involved Sean Maloney taking over as head of marketing, replacing Eric Kim and Anand Chandrasekher. Kim and Chandrasekher are staying with Intel, taking on new jobs at the company. Not so for Shanghai-based Bill Siu, who has been head of Intel’s “channel platforms group,” the division that focuses on emerging markets. Siu, who is only 55, plans to "retire" from the company by the end of the year. According to Intel's press release, "With the impending retirement of Siu, the Channel Platforms Group will report to Maloney in the Sales and Marketing Group. A general manager for the Channel Platforms Group will be named at a later date."

I don’t know why Siu, who was only on the job in Shanghai for less than 2 years, is out. Maybe he was just tired of the grind. I met him a few months ago when I was in Shanghai to report on a BW story about how Intel and other companies are working to come out with low-cost machines for emerging markets, and he talked a lot about the huge amount of travel that he had to do for the job. Surely, any top-level Intel exec is going to be on the plane a fair amount of time, but Siu’s schedule seemed especially grueling. “In the past year I’ve been to 20-plus countries,” he told me then, then rattling off some of them. “Tunesia. Egypt. Turkey. Indonesia. Malaysia. Brazil, Singapore. China. Taiwan. Hong Kong. India. I traveled close to 300,000 miles last year.”

That said, this is an odd time for somebody like Siu to decide to call it a day. When I talked with him a few months ago, he certainly seemed upbeat about the possibilities for Intel in the world’s emerging markets, where the rate of PC penetration is, in his words, “dismal.” “The market is pretty saturated [in the developed countries],” he said, pointing out that in the U.S. there’s 78% penetration rate for PCs, with comparable rates in Japan, South Korea, and Western Europe. “But for the world at large it’s 3 to 4%,” he said. “The need is definitely there. The growth will just be phenomenal.” With that in mind, Siu and his team of engineers in Shanghai, Bangalore, Cairo and Sao Paolo have been working on a range of products tailored to the needs of consumers in developing countries. Siu’s departure, whether voluntary or not, now calls into question Intel’s ability to capitalize on that potential.

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