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Renee James: The Key to Intel's Succession

Stocks in this article: INTC DELL HPQ FSLR AAPL QCOM ARMH

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Intel (INTC - Get Report) is going to some pains to make it appear the appointment of Brian Krzanich as CEO is an orderly succession.

It's not.

While Krzanich is being given the keys to the car, he's not sitting in the front seat all alone. There's a President next to him. The two share an "office of the President" giving this President extraordinary power.

Those who have commented on this note that said President Renee James is a female person.

That's not the story.

The story is that Renee James is a software person. She's not even an engineer. She's a business major from the University of Oregon. Making such a person CEO might cause engineers to storm the castle. Making her President is just an evolution. An Intel lifer, old "BK," is still in charge.

Still, putting a software person on top of Intel is a bit like making an engineer CEO of Avon (AVP), or hiring a journalist to run, well, anything. It's unusual. There has to be a story here.

In the case of Renee James, the story is that she has been running the company's software units -- including the embedded software outfit Wind River -- and that she ran a group that tried to build Intel-run data centers a decade before the cloud was a thing.

If the latter plan were to be resurrected, it would put Intel into direct competition with OEMs including Dell (DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which are staking their futures on managing hybrid clouds. Or it could make Intel more like First Solar (FSLR), which has regained its footing by building, managing and selling-on large solar energy plants to utility companies.

In addition to all this, of course, James was also once a personal assistant to legendary CEO Andy Grove, making him appear a more knowledgeable user of technology than he actually was. The early Intel CEOs were like TV engineers who never watched "I Love Lucy," the most innovative show of its day.

It does makes me wonder -- did she get Grove into that gold, cleanroom jumpsuit I saw him dance in during the 1997 E3 show in Atlanta? It would prove she can convince anyone of anything, and that's what Intel needs right now.

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