Qualcomm CEO to retire after 26 years at firm


Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm, speaks throughout an occasion at CES 2020. Amon is ready to take over as CEO in June. 


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Qualcomm is altering up its management. CEO Steve Mollenkopf will retire this summer time, the wi-fi chipmaker mentioned Tuesday, and President Cristiano Amon will take over the reins on June 30. The 52-year-old Mollenkopf, who has been at Qualcomm for 26 years and has served as CEO since 2014, will “proceed his employment with the corporate as a strategic adviser for a time frame.”

Amon, a 50-year-old from Brazil, has been at Qualcomm since 1995, first working as an engineer. He has served as the corporate’s president since 2018 and has overseen the corporate’s 5G technique and its enlargement of getting its chips into vehicles and web of issues units. On the identical time, Amon has overseen Qualcomm’s efforts to develop its portfolio to supply extra elements mandatory for connecting a telephone to a mobile community, one thing that has boosted the quantity it makes from every design.  

“I’m honored to be named the subsequent CEO of Qualcomm and admire the boldness that Steve and the board have in me,” Amon mentioned in an announcement. “The necessity for our options has by no means been extra pronounced and our management place has by no means been extra evident.”

Whereas Qualcomm is not a family title, it is probably everybody owns one thing with the corporate’s know-how. The San Diego firm invented know-how important for connecting telephones to mobile networks, serving to it change into the world’s greatest cell chipmaker. Right now it is considered because the chief in 5G know-how, one thing that Amon has championed. Its processors are utilized in telephones from Apple, Samsung and just about all high-end handset makers, in addition to carmakers like Audi and numerous different corporations. And Amon has been the principle spokesman for all of these initiatives. 

The CEO information comes a month after Qualcomm launched its newest high-end processors at its annual Tech Summit, which was held just about in early December. The brand new chip, often known as the Snapdragon 888 processor, is anticipated to be inside most high-end 2021 Android phones, together with the Samsung Galaxy S21, which is ready to be introduced subsequent week. And Qualcomm additionally has expanded 5G all the best way to its low-end Snapdragon 480 processor, because it introduced earlier this week. That chip will be in phones that cost between $125 and $250.

“You may’t say 5G and never say Cristiano in the identical sentence as a result of he is been relentless in speaking about it and actually bringing the ecosystem collectively,” mentioned Artistic Methods analyst Carolina Milanesi. 

A brand new period

The appointment of Amon as CEO continues Qualcomm’s lengthy historical past of naming engineers as its chief. The corporate was co-founded in 1985 by Irwin Jacobs and different consultants in wi-fi innovation, adopted by Jacob’s engineer son, Paul Jacobs, in 2005 and Mollenkopf, who additionally began at Qualcomm as an engineer and became CEO in early 2014


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Mollenkopf oversaw Qualcomm during some of the toughest years in the company’s history. During his tenure, the company faced antitrust battles over its position in the chip market, as well as disputes with customers like Apple over its licensing practices. When Mollenkopf became CEO, Qualcomm faced 4G smartphone chip rivals like Nvidia, Texas Instruments and countless others. Today, there are only a few other companies capable of making 5G chips, and Qualcomm’s antitrust and licensing battles are largely behind the company.

“With our business model clearly validated and our leadership in 5G, this is the right time for Cristiano to assume leadership of the company and preside over what I see as the single largest opportunity in the company’s history,” Mollenkopf said in a press release, as he talked up Qualcomm’s focus on 5G and Amon’s leading role in that push. 

During Amon’s tenure, he’ll have to keep Qualcomm on top in 5G, as rivals like MediaTek gain traction. The company has bet on super-fast, millimeter-wave 5G, which has been difficult for rivals to build. The technology can reach high speeds but travels short distances, and it has been favored by carriers like Verizon. Most other carriers around the world have opted for the slower but more reliable flavor of 5G, which can be powered by chips from Qualcomm’s rivals. Qualcomm’s push to include 5G in less expensive processors will help its efforts to expand the technology around the globe. 

“Cristiano has been the face of Qualcomm, for the most part, for a very long time,” Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell said. The CEO transition “works out perfectly with the move to 5G. Qualcomm has been very aggressive in driving that, but there’s still a long runway to go on the 5G side.”

At the same time, Amon will also have to continue Qualcomm’s diversification beyond smartphones. While 5G is expected to boost demand for new phones, the market likely won’t grow as fast as it used to. Instead, everything from cars to traffic lights will get smarter and will require more components that are supplied by companies like Qualcomm. The company has already moved into those areas and will likely make them an even bigger focus over the coming years. 

In a December interview with CNET, Amon talked up 5G’s expansion around the globe and emphasized Qualcomm’s strength in that market. 

In 2019, “it was about getting 5G phones and faster speeds and making the technology real,” Amon said. “In ’20, it was getting scale in phones. And in ’21, you’ll see that speed and performance everywhere. You’ll get to deeper penetration of 5G into other price points. … And you’re going to start to see applications beyond phones start to gain scale.”



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