For Ex-AMD Exec, Timing Was Important

Henri Richard says the time between product launches was the best for jumping from AMD to Freescale.

Henri Richard knew the window of opportunity was going to close fairly quickly.

For almost six years, Richard worked for Advanced Micro Devices and became one of the companys higher profile executives during the chip makers resurgence that started with the launch of the Opteron processor in 2003.

Now, in 2007, Richard, chief marketing and sales officer for AMD, was thinking of making a career move, a decision that was being made while the Sunnyvale, Calif., company was continuing its pitched contest with larger rival Intel, the worlds dominant chip maker.

For Richard, this was as good a time as any to leave, with AMD in a solid market position, with an important product about to launch and more planned for next year.

"If I was going to go, the time was right," he said in a recent interview with eWEEK. "Barcelona [AMDs quad-core Opteron] was coming out. The company was looking at a string of good news and products [going into 2008]. Leaving later would have looked worse."

He made the move in August, saying he would leave AMD in September just as AMD was preparing to launch Barcelona. AMD officials touted Richards work and called the separation amicable. Two weeks later, Freescale Semiconductor announced that Richard was taking a senior vice president job with the Austin, Texas, company, which specializes in embedded chips for such products as cars, cell phones and networking products.

The ride at AMD was a good one, Richard said, particularly given the heights the company reached, in particular giving OEMs and end users a solid alternative to Intel. But it was time to go, and moving to Freescale brings with it the chance to make some changes, including moving away from the PC market and into another area of the industry, where technology is incorporated into products.

"Convergence [of products and technology] is key," Richard said. "In many ways, if you think about the way we think about devices—primarily with the younger generation—they interact with it a lot differently than we do."

People use technology now not just when theyre in front of their PC, but also while driving and in other everyday activities. AMDs focus in large part was on the PC marketplace; Freescale has more of a "mass mainstream" focus, he said.

"Every day, new devices come into our lives that have some level of intelligence," Richard said. "Its almost a limitless opportunity."

Freescales key market right now is automotive, he said. "The primary relationship between the driver and car [offers an opportunity] for a lot of ideas," he said. "Now, the technology is not only under the hood. … Theres great opportunity for innovation in that area."

Theres also another plus to moving to Freescale, Richard said: a wide-open space without a single player like Intel looming over the field.


Click here to read about the resignation of Dave Orton, former CEO and president of ATI, from AMD.

"This market is very different from the one I come from, in that you dont have such a monopoly," he said. "The markets large; no one owns 80 percent of the market."

The result is a sector that is less about beating a rival and more about collaboration with other vendors, Richard said. "Theres a healthy competition, but not as [narrow] as you win or lose, like it is in the other world," he said.

Richard said its too early to say where his first efforts will be at his new job—he needs time to sit down with customers first and hear their wants and concerns—but he already sees places where his AMD experiences overlap with Freescales, including the focus on energy efficiency in the products.

Power efficiency was an important factor in AMDs rise to prominence in the PC and server markets over the past few years, since Opteron first launched.

"The innovation [AMD created in that area] is relevant" to Freescale, he said.


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