Paul Otellini, Former Intel CEO Who Won Apple’s Mac Business, Dead at 66

Steve Jobs and Paul Otellini on stage together

Paul Otellini, the former CEO of Intel who won Apple’s Mac CPU business in 2005, died in his sleep on Monday at the young age of 66. Mr. Otellini worked closely with the late Steve Jobs, and even appeared in an Intel Bunny suit during the keynote where Steve Jobs announced that the Mac was moving to Intel. Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller paid tribute to Mr. Otellini in a tweet featuring a photograph from that event.

Tim Cook added his own tweet of condolence:

Paul Otellini at Intel

Mr. Otellini had a long career at Intel, which he first joined in 1974 after getting his MBA from Berkeley. His tenure included general manager positions, being Intel cofounder Andy Grove’s chief of staff, and an executive vice president’s spot. He was Chief Operating Officer in 2005 when he was named to CEO to replace Andy Grove.

In Intel’s obituary, the company said, “On the financial front, Intel generated more revenue during his eight-year tenure as CEO than it did during the company’s previous 45 years.”

Macs with Intel Inside, but Not “Intel Inside”

For the Apple and Mac community, Mr. Otellini’s most notable accomplishment was bringing Steve Jobs and the Mac to the x86 platform. The Mac was built on Motorola’s 68K architecture and eventually transitioned to PowerPC, a product of the AIM Consortium. AIM stood for Apple, IBM, and Motorola, and PowerPC was a very powerful CPU. But as the I and M of AIM lost interest in Apple’s small PC market share, they focused on other applications for PowerPC, and Macs began to lag behind PCs with x86 processors.

That didn’t stop Apple under Steve Jobs from taking potshots at Intel, however, including the well-loved commercials where Apple mocked Intel’s so-called Bunny Men. Steve Jobs had long known the power of having an “enemy” to focus on, for employees and customers alike, and Intel largely replaced IBM as Apple’s Enemy #1. Of course, all the while, Steve Jobs had a secret group porting Mac OS X to x86, but that was Steve Jobs.

With or without a secret porting group, however, Intel still had to win Apple’s business, and that meant winning over Steve Jobs. And that’s what Paul Otellini did soon after taking over the helm of Intel.

Part of winning that business was accepting Steve Jobs’s requirement that Macs not have to use Intel’s own branding weapon of “Intel Inside.” Allowing Apple to not promote Intel in that way was a bold step, but one Mr. Otellini clearly felt was worth it.

Despite Apple’s small market share, the company was still the perception leader of the computing world to many people. Winning that business cemented Intel’s perception as the world’s leader in CPUs, and gave the company a solid monopoly for desktop and mobile CPUs*.

Which is why winning Apple over received a mention in Intel’s obituary, where the company wrote, “Other accomplishments included signing on notable new customer engagements, such as winning the Apple PC business.”

RIP Paul Otellini

Paul Otellini was highly respected and very successful. He’s been working on various philanthropic endeavors since retiring from Intel in 2013. Our condolences to his surviving family and friends. Rest in peace, Mr. Otellini.

*That could be changing, of course, with rumors swirling that Apple is developing its own ARM-based CPU for the Mac.

One thought on “Paul Otellini, Former Intel CEO Who Won Apple’s Mac Business, Dead at 66

  • 66 is way too young. Frankly so is 96… but 66, man that is not very old these days. I remember watching videos of the event where Paul came on stage with Steve. Such a great sport. Rest in peace.

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