Intel announced today that long-standing CEO Paul Ottelini is to step down next year, paving the way for a possible shake-up at the firm as it grapples with the industry shift from PCs to mobile.

Ottelini – a 40-year Intel veteran and CEO since 2005 – will retire in May, giving Intel six months to handle a "leadership transition." It says it will consider both internal and external candidates.

According to Reuters, Intel is to promote three execs to EVP level, indicating that they could be possible successors: Renee James, in charge of Intel software; COO Brian Krzanich; and Stacy Smith, CFO and director of corporate strategy.

"Previous CEO transitions have all involved carefully groomed internal candidates, but if Intel's Board is now looking externally – to bring in new skills – that would explain the lack of a named successor and length of time in transition," Longbow Research analyst JoAnne Feeney told Reuters.

Intel was a colossus in the PC era, but has been slow to adapt its products to smartphones and tablets, where it is struggling to compete with rival chipmakers such as Qualcomm, Samsung and ARM.

"We all know that everyone is using smartphones  and tablets now. It's the era of Intel versus ARM, so it may be good [for someone to] come in with some fresh blood and a new perspective," said Evercore analyst Patrick Wang.