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Does Qualcomm's CMO appointment of a former Intel exec hint at a new strategy?

Qualcomm on Monday named former Intel executive Anand Chandrasekheras its new chief marketing officer.

The hire is an interesting one given that Chandrasekher's main claim to fame at Intel was in product development rather than marketing. He led the chip giant's Ultra Mobility Group for several years before parting ways with the company in March 2011.

"I am pleased to welcome Anand Chandrasekher as chief marketing officer. His extensive experience in marketing and management makes Anand well-suited to help grow Qualcomm's communications and marketing efforts across the world and to amplify our consumer offerings to new audiences," Qualcomm president and chief operating officer Steve Mollenkopf said in a statement.

In 25 years at Intel, Chandrasekher led the product groups behind such famous brands as Centrino and Atom, but his marketing credentials are actually not inconsiderable — in fact, he had a stint as head of Intel's Worldwide Sales and Marketing Group at one point.

As a top executive in Intel's Mobile Platform and later general manager of the Ultra Mobility Group, Chandrasekher helped the company set the pace in an exploding laptop market and then struck gold briefly with the surprising success of the low-power Atom processor line, a central component in the short-lived but explosive netbook market in the latter years of the last decade.

But the even smaller mobile Internet devices (MIDs) that Intel and Chandrasekher were pushing as far back as 2007 never really took off. Instead, smartphones and then tablets with ultra-low power chipsets designed by Intel rival ARM emerged as consumer favourites, knocking aside MIDs and even netbooks, and leaving Intel flat-footed without a viable System-on-a-Chip alternative until very recently.

So why Qualcomm and why now for Chandrasekher? Patrick Moorhead, lead analyst for Moor Insights and Strategy, reckoned the hire could signal that mobile chipset specialist Qualcomm is gearing up for a push into other computing sectors, where Chandrasekher's old company still looms large.

"Chandrasekher's appointment as Qualcomm CMO is interesting on a few vectors. Most of his experience at Intel was around products and businesses, not marketing and communications. He led Intel's Menlow and Moorestown products as well as the netbook and MID initiatives," Moorhead said.

"Chandrasekher is likely being brought in to get Qualcomm into the PC and server market where component marketing matters more than with embedded silicon for smartphones. Qualcomm needs to beef up their marketing if it hopes to challenge Intel in any of their core markets," he continued.

If that is Qualcomm's strategy, it wouldn't be particularly shocking, because there are strong signs of big movement in computing sectors long dominated by one specific architecture or another. Makers of ARM-based chips have been steadily pushing upwards into the PC and server markets traditionally served by x86 houses like Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, for example, while PC powerhouses Intel and Nvidia have recently been making solid inroads into mobile from the other side of the divide.