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These are exciting but uncertain times for Intel and the people who work at its complex of semiconductor research, development and manufacturing facilities in Hillsboro.

Intel is both completing and beginning massive expansion projects at its Ronler Acres campus. Work on a new fabrication facility known as D1X is winding down. But the company is also gearing up to build a second fab, as it is called, along with a new office building.

The company has also begun work on a parking garage to serve the additional employees. As part of that project, Hillsboro is requiring Intel to build a traffic circle at the Northeast Butler Street entrance to its property, and to plant trees along the street to buffer the view from the nearby Orenco Station homes.

Although Intel has not disclosed exact construction costs for all of the expansion projects, they are believed to be more than $6 billion.

Intel employs more than 17,000 people in Oregon, with most of them working in Hillsboro. They are the largest private employer in the state and a major reason why Washington County is widely regarded as the economic engine of the state.

At the same time, the company, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif., is looking for a new chief operating officer. Paul Otellini has announced he will retire in May. Business publications have reported that Chief Operating Officer Brian Krzanich, Chief Financial Officer Stacy Smith, and software head Renee James are under consideration to replace him.

But Bloomberg News has also reported that the company has also hired Spencer Stuart & Associates Ltd. to help find Otellini’s replacement, suggesting it is seriously considering external candidates.

Since it was founded in 1968, Intel has never filled its top post with an executive from the outside.

Internet TV market

And if that’s not enough, last week Intel announced that it will begin selling a new device later this year, a paid Internet video service and TV set-top. Powered by the company’s chips, this will be the first product Intel has sold directly to consumers. The announcement was made on Feb. 12 at D: Dive Into Media conference in Dana Point, Calif.

“This is the first time Intel is going after mainstream consumers,” says Jon Carvill of the Intel Global Communication team.

According to Carvill, Intel is not ready to announce the name and release date of the new product. It was developed by engineering teams at a number of the company’s locations, including Hillsboro. It is being tested by employees in Hillsboro and other Intel locations.

Despite expansion at the Ronler Acres campus, Carvill says the new product probably will not be manufactured there.

“Knowing what the they make in Hillsboro, I think it is more suitable for another location,” says Carvill.

When it is released, the product will compete with companies like Apple and Roku for the potentially lucrative Internet TV market. Intel wants to go further than those companies, however, whose products primarily supplement TV cable offerings. Carvill said the Intel device is intended to potentially replace the cable box. It will offer a selection of live and “catch up” features, and a programming interface that will be much easier to use than the others on the market, Carvill said.

The price was not announced.by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Construction is starting up again on Intel's Ronler acre campus. A parking garage is being built near the recently-completed D1X manufacturing facility, which will soon double in size.

“I think we can bring an incredible, easy to use Internet experience to TVs,” says Carvill.

Industry experts speculate that Intel is pursuing the new device because the primary market for its chips, personal computers, is stagnating. More and more consumers are choosing other products, like smartphones and tablets, instead. Most of them don’t use Intel chips. That is widely thought to be why Intel’s stock declined 15 percent last year, compared with a 13 percent increase in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Carvill says that is misleading, however. He says Intel chips are already used in several tablets and around 10 smartphone models sold outside the U.S. market.

After the new product was announced, however, Intel shares rose 16 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $21.19 in afternoon trading, as other technology stocks declined.

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