Intel Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich is obsessed with startup culture. He visits maker faires, tinkers with robots and drones, and wires smart gadgets into his house. After his engineers demonstrated a centralized smart thermostat system designed to operate throughout a city, including in industrial buildings, he installed a beta version in his San Jose home. He wasn’t satisfied with some of its software, so he tweaked the Unix code himself and passed the fixes along to the engineers.
Intel is this year’s top performer on the Dow Jones industrial average, up 35 percent as of Sept. 30, and the chipmaker has been able to coast somewhat on its dominance of the market for servers, 98 percent of which carry its semiconductors. Krzanich, who took over the top job last year, has to keep the good news coming while trying to solve a nagging problem that also plagued his predecessor, Paul Otellini. The company has struggled to make a dent in the market for the low-power chips used in mobile devices—it’s losing $1 billion a quarter in the business, despite discounting deeply to encourage phone and tablet makers to use its chips. “I know what not to do,” says Krzanich, 54. “I need to now figure out what to do.”