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Freescale CEO sees IPO when the market is right

Posted: 22 Nov 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Richard Beyer? interview? semiconductor? embedded?

The network/wireless infrastructure market is booming. It can be a lumpy business but as we manage our business across all the geography, I think we can offset that.

The industry market grows at the level of GDP. It's a solid business.

EET: You are also in the consumer business, making chips for smart mobile devices. With so many consumer products billed as "connected devices," is it wise to forsake the wireless business?

BEYER: Connectivity ICs like WiFi are now highly commoditized. 3G modem is also a highly commoditized, competitive market where companies like Mediatek can offer those baseband chips at $2 or $3.

I think we can add more value to smart mobile devices by offering processors, sensors and power chips, eliminating our customers' need to buy all those separate components.

EET: How do you compete in the smart mobile device market?

BEYER: I define it broadly. It includes tablets, netbooks, smartbooks and others in hundreds of form factors, with each segment moving at different speed.

The consumer segment is not our main business. But I want it to be a part of the fabric of Freescale. It teaches us to be agile; it makes us learn to turn our products around very quickly in a much shorter product life cycle.

EET: When you decided to take the Freescale job, all your friends and business acquaintances said: "Are you crazy?" Your response then? And now?

BEYER: This was a great company. I told them that it has all the foundations to be a good company.

Now that we have a team of senior management executives, I have even greater confidence that we'll win. I was told by one of my colleagues that we now have the most congenial management team this company has ever had.

EET: What do you mean by "congenial"? Isn't it human nature to compete?

BEYER: We have a team of executives who want to win as a whole company.

Each group may have different views and different directions they may want to take. But if one group does one thing which may hurt the other group's business, the senior executive team has to be committed to doing the right thing as a whole company.

Just last week, we had two executives representing a separate business segment in this conference room; each made his case; we weighed the options. We talked it out. At the end, we all agreed on one direction.

People need to buy into the decision: Don't do things at the expense of the other group.

To appreciate the magnitude of changes Beyer and his team have brought to Freescale, one needs to know what Freescale was like beforeas a chip division of Motorola.

Traditionally, Freescale's employees based in Austin, Texas were known for being polite, cordial, less cutthroat compared to those working at Silicon Valley chip companies. They also had the reputation of being intensely competitive and political inside the company. Inside the company, some developed products that served mainly to fuel internal competition; others undercut rival divisions for the sake of their own team; the company had a sprawling, unfocused list of products. At times, some of those internal maneuvers and rivalries cost the company dearlyin both morale and resources.

Changing any corporate culture is not trivial. But as Beyer tells the story, his senior management team has accomplished that"cordially."

If so, this already represents a huge win for Freescale.

Junko Yoshida
EE Times

Richard Beyer, CEO, Freescale Semiconductor

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