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One-on-one with Imagination's CEO

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Imagination Technologies? IP? semiconductor? Ensigma? MIPS?

Recently, Imagination Technologies CEO Sir Hossein Yassaie, sat with Hanns Windele to talk about how his organisation weathers the challenges in the world of IP, as well as the future he sees for the company.

You have gone on record as saying that one of the keys to success is identifying future opportunities. How do you go about doing this?

Sir Hossein Yassaie: It's actually quite a formal process for us, perhaps more formal than many would realise for an IP company. We basically do three things. First we look at the trends in technology, and by that I don't just mean what's going on in the semiconductor technology.

I mean what's going on in technologies we care about such as graphics, video and audio, also software. The second thing we do is to understand the changes, what I call the 'direction of travel,' in the food chain in our industry. If you look six years down the line, you can't say the world will look exactly the same, because it won't.

The third thing is really all about the consumer trends. What people don't appreciate is that you can do a lot of consumer analysis through the Internet these days. You can reach thousands of people and ask them questions about what they care about. A few years ago we were trying to work out whether customers cared about streaming content versus having it on the device.

Sir Hossein Yassaie

Sir Hossein Yassaie

And so you say: "If you could do something like this... would this be of interest to you? and why?" All these analyses form the basis of a long-term plan. And then the rest of it is actually more of a short-term proposition, looking at visible markets and using data to validate the shorter-term horizon.

How much of a role does the spreadsheet play in all this?

Yassaie: I hate spreadsheets. In my previous company people would justify anything with a spreadsheet. They'd say: "It's a big market, let's aim to get 10 per cent of it." It's easy to do that and you can justify anything. I think where the spreadsheet can be useful is to validate your long-term plans once you've done the trend analysis. You get a numerical back-up, which tells you how to work through things.

When it comes to M&As, are we dealing with simply inserting your technology into another company's way of doing things?

Yassaie: Once we have understood the overall roadmap of where things are heading, if we then feel that we have to be in a certain market, then we will look for disruptions. In 1993-94, I decided to go into graphics because I saw graphics technology was going to move from the PC into portable devices.

I could see that it was all going to be about footprint and a different memory system, meaning you'd have to execute what you are doing very efficiently. That's what led to our mobile, low-power, efficient architecture.

You can identify those disruptions and address them yourself, or acquire someone who knows how to do it, or you can invest in start-ups. We have investment in about 10 companies in one form or another as part of our overall plans.

What is the balance at Imagination between organic growth in-house and looking outside for solutions?

Yassaie: We are very much in-house driven. If you look at our underlying technologies, the graphics and video were entirely home-grown. Before we acquired MIPS Technologies we even developed our own processor as a way to scale up what we were doing.

In terms of connectivity we acquired Ensigma, a company recognised for its know-how in signal processing as applied to broadcast and wireless. That was an expertise we didn't have. That company used to be a leading consultancy, but when we acquired it we said: "no more consultancy; the focus is now going to be on creating a generic solution for connectivity." That's how the Ensigma RPU (radio processing unit) came about.

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