Intel's march into the smartphone market has taken a hit with the news that Anand Chandrasekher is leaving the company to 'pursue other interests,' effective immediately.
Chandrasekher, a 24-year veteran of the company, was most recently in charge of Intel's Ultra Mobility Group - responsible for developing low-power technologies for smartphones in Intel's ongoing efforts to attack British chip design giant ARM on its home ground.
During his time at Intel, Chandrasekher has led teams responsible for the creation of Intel's Centrino platform, the technology behind the company's incredibly successful Atom family of low-power processors, and under his leadership the mobile group became the fastest growing business unit in the company's history.
Despite Chandresekher's decision to abandon the company he has served for so long, Intel executive VP David Perlmutter is convinced that the Ultra Mobility Group will prevail. "Intel remains committed to this business," Perlmutter claimed. "We continue to make the investments needed to ensure that the best user experience on smartphones and handhelds runs on Intel Architecture, and to ship a phone this year."
While Perlmutter's comments may reassure Intel investors that the company's plans remain on track, the question remains: why has Chandrasekher, a man who has spent a huge portion of his working life at Intel, decided to leave the company now?
It's hard to see Chandrasekher's departure as anything other than an admission that Intel has some hard yards ahead as it attempts to break in to a market in which someone else is the eight-hundred-pound gorilla in the room. During Chandrasekher's time at Intel, the company became an ARM licensee for the XScale series of CPUs and then sold the technology on to concentrate on x86 - a move which Chandrasekher is possibly seeing as a mistake in hindsight.
Late last year Intel CEO Paul Otellini said one of his biggest regrets was that he wasn't smart enough to see the smartphone boom coming. A recent report from Berg Insight said the smartphone market grew by 74 per cent in 2010.
Following Chandrasekher's immediate departure - again, a move which indicates that either he's surprisingly eager to pursue these unnamed 'other interests' or that he's being pushed out by forces unknown at the company - Intel's Mike Bell and Dave Whalen, both of the Intel Architecture Group, will take over management of the Ultra Mobile Group.