The transcript from this week’s MiB: Cristiano Amon, President of Qualcomm, is below.
You can stream and download our full conversation, including the podcast extras, on Apple iTunes, Spotify, Overcast, Google, Bloomberg, and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.
VOICEOVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.
RITHOLTZ: This week on the podcast, I have a special guest. His name is Cristiano Amon. He is the President of mobile semiconductor giant Qualcomm. This is really a fascinating conversation. His career has taken him all over the world from Brazil to Tokyo to San Diego.
He has been both an engineer and a team product leader all the way up to corporate manager as president. Really fascinating guy with a lot of interesting background and material. I think you’ll find it intriguing.
With no further ado, my conversation with Cristiano Amon.
VOICEOVER: This is Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz on Bloomberg Radio.
RITHOLTZ: My special guest this week is Cristiano Amon, he is the president of Qualcomm. Previously, he has worked at such August firms as NEC Electronics and Ericsson. He has a unique mix of business engineering and operational skills.
He ran Qualcomm semiconductor business for five years. He successfully built the chipset strategy and business in China and he has been managing Qualcomm’s product roadmap since 2008. Cristiano Amon, welcome to Bloomberg.
CRISTIANO AMON, PRESIDENT, QUALCOMM: Thank you, Barry. Very happy to be here.
RITHOLTZ: So, let’s trace your career back to the mid-90s. 1995, you joined Qualcomm as an engineer. You were born in Brazil. You grew up in Sao Paulo. How did you find your way to Qualcomm in the U.S. after college?
AMON: I’s interesting. I’ve been fortunate enough since I graduated in engineering school where I was working cellular, I was working wireless and starting my career in Brazil working in the first cellular systems that have been implemented in Brazil, those are the analog days, and for a Japanese company, NEC.
Actually, I first left Brazil to go to Tokyo. So, in — it’s about 1994, I was working as an engineer, they decided to transfer me to the headquarters in Japan and off I go. Exactly from Brazil to Japan, exactly in the other side of the globe and …
RITHOLTZ: Right. So, if I remember correctly, NEC is Nippon Electronics Corporation?
AMON: Yes. Yes.
RITHOLTZ: What part of Japan was that located?
AMON: I moved to Tokyo.
AMON: So, first time I left Brazil …
RITHOLTZ: Very exciting.
AMON: Yes. I went to Tokyo. I was adopted for about a year and when I was working at NEC, we’re thinking about going to digital cellular, work in their system engineering group.
We knew of this small company out in San Diego, California called Qualcomm that had this CDMA technology for digital cellular and we needed to talk to Qualcomm to understand how we could build CDMA base stations.
RITHOLTZ: And explain to the listeners what does CDMA stand for, what does it do?
AMON: Well, CDMA is actually the technology that put Qualcomm on the map. It stands for code-division multiple access. It’s a complicated term but really …
RITHOLTZ: But what is it actually doing in the world?
AMON: In the 2G cellular, remember?
RITHOLTZ: Way back when.
AMON: We’re now in 5G now. But in 2G cellular, it allowed cellular to become a digital and increase the capacity. The claim to fame …
RITHOLTZ: And that was …
AMON: The claim to fame of CDMA was when cellular started and people realized, everybody wants to have a phone.
AMON: Existing original 1G systems, the analog system, walkie-talkie time, you couldn’t really get anybody unless you have 10X improvement in capacity and that’s what CDMA did.
AMON: But going back to your question, so, I was in Japan working in Tokyo and I traveled to San Diego back in 1994, kind of late ’94 and met this company, Qualcomm, and the start having a business relationship with Qualcomm and a technical relationship about CDMA.
And then that led to Qualcomm to make me a proposal to join the company and I joined Qualcomm in 1995.
RITHOLTZ: So, you moved to San Diego, is that where you were working?
AMON: I moved back to Brazil, helped them set up the operations in Brazil and Latin America during the year of -later part of ’95 and ’96 and …
RITHOLTZ: Why was that? Because Brazil had such an advanced cellular system they wanted to then upgrade to the next level, 2G?
AMON: In the mid-90s, when Qualcomm developed the CDMA technology, all of the — around the globe, all of the analog, 1G systems, was going to upgrade to 2G.
So, then Qualcomm set up offices worldwide, including the headquarters for Latin America, it was in Brazil, really try to get spectrum are located in the systems to upgrade to CDMA.
RITHOLTZ: So, Brazil covered all the South America.
AMON: It was — the Brazil office, covered all of South America, when I was back then in ’95 and ’96, at early part of ’96, I was going all over the place, to Argentina, to Chile, at that time, to Mexico, we have CDMA projects everywhere. And then the later part of ’96, I moved to San Diego and that’s where I live now.
RITHOLTZ: And what was your title when you moved to San Diego? What was your job there?
AMON: Well, I started Qualcomm as an engineer and when I moved to San Diego, that was back in 1996, I was a manager of technology.
RITHOLTZ: So, you have other engineers reporting directly to you?
AMON: Back in — I believe so, back in the ’96 timeframe. Yes. I joined Qualcomm as an engineer and had been going to the ranks.
RITHOLTZ: So, now, you moved to — you relocate to United States, is that any culture shock following Brazil and Japan? What was that like? Nicer weather than Japan?
AMON: You cannot complain about San Diego. So, we’re very spoiled in San Diego.
AMON: There’s nothing like it. But, yes, it was — no culture shock. I think in — especially, today, after all those years, I — San Diego is home to me. Everything feels home.
RITHOLTZ: So, you’ve been in charge of the QCT product roadmap. Explain to us exactly what that is.
AMON: OK. So, when you think of a company like Qualcomm, Qualcomm has two business. One business we call QTL, the Qualcomm Technology Licensing, and in the business, it’s — we do a lot of advanced research. Unlike other companies that they’re — developed products based on different standards, we were a creator of standards. We create a new technology. We created like 3G and 4G and 5G and we license the technology so anybody can build. That’s the licensing business.
RITHOLTZ: Wait, Qualcomm created each of the cellular standards beyond 1G. They created 2G. They created 3, 4, 5, and I’m going to ask you later what comes after 5G. We’ll get to that.
AMON: OK. The way to think about it, every standard — every generation of wireless, it’s whether it’s 2G, 3G, 4G, and now 5G, it’s based on a standard, there’s a standard body that standardizes contributions from any company.
Through all the digital cellular generation starting with 3G all the way to right now in 5G, they were building. Qualcomm has been the largest contributor of fundamental technologies of the standards. So, in a way, yes, many of the things that we do today over phones is in part based of Qualcomm inventions and has been part of every single standard.
So, that’s a licensing business, they license the technology. QCT is Qualcomm CDMA Technologies, is the chipset business.
AMON: So, when you think about phones with Qualcomm processors and Qualcomm chips, Snapdragon …
RITHOLTZ: So, Snapdragon is the chipset that Qualcomm uses and …
AMON: It’s the chipset. Yes. That’s all …
RITHOLTZ: … that goes into …
AMON: … product of QCT.
RITHOLTZ: … to what, that goes into Samsung, Android, Apple, everybody?
AMON: Qualcomm chips go to majority of the phones, yes. It goes into your Samsung phone. But also beyond phones are chips. Not all our chips are labeled Snapdragon but our chips go to Wi-Fi routers, go to the infotainment dashboard in your car, goes to many things in your home.
I think we go to your smart watch. We have chips now in a variety of products. That’s what QCT does.
RITHOLTZ: Quite fascinating. So, what was your sense of the environment in the 1990s? You joined Qualcomm in ’95. Did you have any sense that the whole tech sector was in a bubble and we’re going to see a pretty big drop?
AMON: So, I joined Qualcomm in ’95 and there was a lot of growth in the wireless industry. It was different in the dot com bubble because the wireless was really going and continue to grow. I think …
RITHOLTZ: Straight through.
AMON: … people want to go to cellphone, yes. However, I did left Qualcomm — I had a short period of time I went to Ericsson and then I joined a VC right before the dot com bubble burst.
And I joined VC. I moved to Colorado and we had raised a lot of money. We had a lot of investments. And then with the bubble burst, I had to deal with it. And it was interesting, it was a different phase of my career.
One of our investments we had, I was an operator in the Brazil, cellphone operator, that’s actually went bankrupt. And because when the bubble burst, a lot of the investors pull out. It was early days. It’s still building.
So, I took a completely different change in my career. I went back to Brazil, I was the CTO of this operator and then later COO, the one who’s (ph) restructuring work, and it was fun. It was — it’s about — I learned a lot. It was about three years and when we turned that to positive EBITDA and sold the operator and that’s when Qualcomm asked me, hey, are you bored, do you want come back to San Diego, and I came back in ’04.
RITHOLTZ: So, Qualcomm recruits you back in 2004, only this time the company you left and the one you rejoined somewhat different. Enough time has passed that things have changed, what sort of role did you come back to and what’s sort of company did you find when you got there?
AMON: That’s a good question. So, when I came back, company was very different. We — company has started as a company that was developing CDMA technology.
At that time, 3G was more mature. Company was also going into another technology. There was a variant called WCDM, wideband CDMA, making strides into other market. Also, developing into the multimedia capabilities of the chipset
So, the chip business at that time started to grow significantly. It was a very smaller part of Qualcomm when I left, started to be more significant at that time. So, I joined, I was asked to run the CDMA business for Qualcomm in the chip division and it was interesting time because if you remember a little bit of what I have done in my career before that, right, I have — I had worked at Qualcomm in kind of the early days then I went gain some — worked at Ericsson in the infrastructure, I gained some VC experience.
I did a difficult restructuring job and I had a lot of operator experience. And at that time, what happened is many of the CDMA operators were considering abandoning the technology and switching to GSM and Qualcomm wanted somebody to take over the business to find out how we could reverse that trend and generate growth again for CDMA.
So, that’s like the — that was the problem statement for me and maybe my experience at that time in solving difficult problems, having some operator experience, they said, well, we probably can do that. So, I did that.
It was great. It was a successful journey and I think my success in that end up putting me in a position to manage all the different products of Qualcomm roadmap in the chip division a couple of years later.
RITHOLTZ: Wow. That’s really interesting. How quickly do those chipsets turn obsolete or as differently, given how fast we’ve gone from 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, it seems like the lifespan of each one of these new generations is much less than five years.
So, are these chips practically obsolete when they leave the factory? What — how long are they good for before the new hotness comes along?
AMON: OK. Very, very interesting question especially — I like that question especially because how we think of our business and I’ll tell you, I’m going to answer your question with an interesting metaphor. I promise I’ll make this interesting.
So, the answer to your question is in today’s mobile environment, the chip business, it’s very competitive. First of all, it’s very capital intensive but when you buy — when you do a chip, the way for you to think about it, and I will answer your question, it take — we have to think about what we’re going to do when a chip — two years before the chip.
So, in two years before the chip is done, we need to decide what capabilities this chip will have. Like think about a Snapdragon in your Samsung phone, how good is the graphics, how good is the camera, how good is the gaming capability and all of that.
It takes two years to develop. Then you launch into a device and let’s say you go buy your Samsung Galaxy device.
RITHOLTZ: Well, I’m the wrong guy to say that. I got the new Apple 11 with the big camera only because I wanted that really nice camera quality and zoom and I’ve never had a competitive — since smartphones come out, I’ve only had an Apple. So, I have no experience with Samsung.
AMON: We need to get you of a 5G phone.
AMON: They’re more and more important than Samsung graphic (ph), we need to get to a 5G phone. But going back to that …
RITHOLTZ: So, when did they become ubiquitous? When a 5G everywhere?
AMON: 5G everywhere, probably in — I think all metropolitan areas will have 5G covered in ’20. But I want to go back to your question
RITHOLTZ: Next — 2020, wow.
AMON: 2020. I’ll go back to your question. So, two years to do a chip, you launch your phone, six months, their phone is obsolete and there’s another model, right?
AMON: So, it’s a very interesting business because you have to decide what to do two years in advance and you launch a flagship state-of-the-art smartphone and in six months to a year, you have to do all over again.
So, the metaphor that I use, I feel like chip business is like gladiator business.
AMON: You have you and your competitors. No matter how successful you are, you’re always one chip away from losing your success, right? So, you have to build the best possible chip it can build and it’s like a gladiator, you go to the Colosseum and you’re going to fight.
And if you lose, bad outcome. If you win, you just read — you’re eligible to go to the Colosseum one more time.
RITHOLTZ: So, the winners are in the right to fight again and the losers are dea.
AMON: That is true.
RITHOLTZ: That’s challenging. So, let’s talk about some of the competitors in the chip space. There’s Nvidia and there is AMD and who else is the hot chip of the moment these days?
AMON: Well, the chip industry is very diverse and depend on the segment. In the space that we are, we end up — we complete with different people depending on what we’re doing.
RITHOLTZ: In different things. Right.
AMON: Yes. So, for example, in the space that we are doing smartphones, we compete sometimes with Samsung, their own chip.
RITHOLTZ: Right. They make a lot.
AMON: They make their own chip. We compete with Huawei phones that they use their own chip. Now, when we go to PCs, we compete with Intel. We just entered a BC space. The new Microsoft Surface X has Qualcomm Microsoft chip on it. So, we compete with intel.
When we go into — end up competing with AMD. When we go in the automotive space and we’re doing the chips and thus, your dashboard and infotainment …
AMON: … we’re competing with Nvidia. So, we compete with different companies. One good thing about Qualcomm is that we’re now expanded to so many industries. So, we’re going from phones to cars to Internet of Things to computer and many other things.
RITHOLTZ: So, let’s talk a little bit about leadership from the top of the company, how does one go from being an engineer to a manager though seem like very, very different skillsets?
AMON: Yes. It’s — maybe the way to think about it is as an engineer, especially if you’re doing complex system, you have to learn how to manage teams because you cannot do everything yourself and maybe that’s how the whole thing starts.
But at least for me, I think the success in my career was also to have this balance of understanding the technology because of my engineering background, because of my engineering experience, but also understanding the business.
And I think once you do both, you have both the business and the technical understanding. It’s kind of easier for you to go to a manager role and be able to lead teams and make sure you have the right strategy, we’re working on the right things, we’re doing the right products.
But I also think that the unique personality things as well. Like the approach that I took is I always going to make sure that the people in my team are doing the thing that they can do better than I can do myself.
It’s about multiplying – the ability for you to multiply your capabilities by having better people than you are doing the job and I think that that makes good managers and I — and one of my recipes for success within Qualcomm, we’re very unique culture, we’re very matrix in a way, is the ability to exercise leadership but also recognizing, treating all the people in my team as peers. And I think that’s — you get a little bit of that as working on engineering teams and developing projects together.
RITHOLTZ: So, how does the role of president differ from that of chief executive officer, the CEO of the company? Mollenkopf has been there for quite a while, hasn’t he?
AMON: Yes. Steve and I have been working together for a long time. Actually, it was — if you look — Steve is the CEO, Jim Thompson, which is our CTO, and when I joined Qualcomm for the second time back in 2004, I was on the CDMA business, Mollenkopf was in the UMTS business or the WCMA business.
So, we’ve been working for very, very long time. The way it works today, Steve is the CEO. He e has Alex Rogers which runs our licensing business reporting to Steve Mollenkopf and you can look at me as probably run all of the operating business of the company. So, all of the other business of the company are under the president and I ran them.
So, the president role within Qualcomm, it’s the person responsible for the operating role of the management.
RITHOLTZ: So, you guys now seem to have resolved all the outstanding issues with Apple. There was a fairly contentious lawsuit. There was a hostile takeover attempt. What was it like within the company when all this — what was previously, I think, a pretty good relationship, how did it go off the rails and how did it eventually get resolved?
AMON: There’s a lot in there. Well, we’ve been to a lot. We have two years of unbelievable turmoil and I’ll say it was great opportunity for the company to become stronger. I think it showed how the company’s resilience specifically to your Apple question.
Yes, we had our disagreements about the licensing and the value of the technology we produce. As I told you before, we — none of those standards will be possible, none of the generations of wireless will be possible with Qualcomm technology.
AMON: We license for everybody to build but we want to get paid on intellectual property and we stand by that principle. But we’re glad we resolved it and the good thing about it, resolved in a way that is a win for Apple, win for Qualcomm.
We’re back in business together. We have a multiyear agreement. We’re working day and night to make sure they have a great iPhone or 5G technology and business continues.
RITHOLTZ: That’s really interesting. So, you’re at the top of the food chain in Qualcomm. Who do you turn to when you’re looking for advice?
AMON: When I need advice, I talk to a lot of — the other members of the Qualcomm management team. I also — we have a good relationship with our board of directors. So, we have a lot of experienced people in our board.
But I also have great relationship to many senior executives across our partners and customers. And many of those — some relationships are helpful when you look at different perspective of how to do things. And I’m somebody that really value relationships and also personal relationships and I make full use of those.
RITHOLTZ: One of the names that always seems to come up is Satya Nadella who’s now CEO of Microsoft. How is that relationship coming about?
AMON: Interesting. There was a — there’s an interesting article that came out when I answered exactly that question.
RITHOLTZ: “Wall Street Journal.”
AMON: “Wall Street Journal.”
RITHOLTZ: Guess where I found that.
AMON: Yes. And …
RITHOLTZ: In fact, they specifically mentioned Nick Kauser, Roberto Padovani and Robert Setubal along with Satya Nadella.
AMON: Yes. And I can tell a little bit about why.
RITHOLTZ: Those are all technology rockstars, aren’t they?
AMON: Some are. Some are in the different categories. So, Roberto, yes, and that’s the answer to your question and I’ll walk you why those four.
I think Roberto, when I came back to Qualcomm in the second time around, Qualcomm, as I talked to, was different company when I left and Roberto was the CTO at that time, somebody I have a lot of respect. He’s Alexander Graham Bell prizewinner for the IEEE, has done tremendous contributions to engineering, the wireless industry and he helped me navigate through Qualcomm. Also, provide me a lot of sound advice to my career.
The other one was Nick Kauser. Nick Kauser was earlier in my career. When I went to a VC, I worked for Nick. Nick is another one of those very famous individuals in wireless. Nick was the first CTO of McCaw Cellular, which is the first cellular operator in the world, period, and later became the CTO of AT&T Wireless. And it’s — a few people have as much experience in wireless as Nick.
Roberto Setubal was different. One of the other things that I do besides my job at Qualcomm, I am on a board of largest retail bank in Brazil. Banking industry, very different than the wireless and tech industry.
The chairman of the bank is Roberto Setubal, is also a board member of Shell, an oil company, and very experienced individual. Our relationship is kind of new. It have been over two years now in the bank board but he’s another person also that gave me interesting perspective how he look at things, how he look at things within the bank and sometimes, it’s good to have the different viewpoint.
Satya is different. It’s — we have a business relationship with Microsoft. Therefore, we have a relationship with Satya. But Satya is more about what he need to do at Microsoft to change Microsoft from a Windows client company into an enterprise cloud company.
It’s a little bit like the change I have been doing at Qualcomm from a mobile-only company into going into all of the other industries that are being transformed by mobile.
So, it’s kind of a — the Satya is like, OK, it can be done. It was done so we can do it. That’s kind of along those lines.
RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. So, let’s talk about new versus potential or existing products. How do you balance — what you’re working on today with, hey, we have a new idea for something that it’s 6G or 7G, how does — internally, how does a company balance between what they need to sell to bring in revenue today and how they think about the next couple of years of products??
AMON: That’s exactly the recipe for Qualcomm’s success. We have teams that are working on the products that we’re going to launch next year. We have teams that are working on technologies and products for the next five years. But we have teams that are looking like 10 years out.
RITHOLTZ: Ten years out?
RITHOLTZ: So, really, think about a decade ago versus today. 2009, did we have any idea about how popular drones would be, you barely had smart phones out there. A decade seems like a lifetime in technology.
AMON: Barry, 2010 when we launched 4G and you’re buying your 4G smartphone, that’s where we start working on 5G.
AMON: And I’ve — like I said, that’s the recipe I think for Qualcomm’s success. Like right now, we’re very excited about 5G transformation. 5G in its – we’re just at the beginning of that. It’s going to last for 10 years. We have technologies coming from multiple years on 5G. But we also need to start thinking right now what’s going to come next.
RITHOLTZ: And that’s 6G.
AMON: I think so.
RITHOLTZ: So, 5G is — I mean, 3, 4, 5 have three — 2 to 3 to 4, each have been pretty nice steps up. But it looks like 4G to 5G is a giant leap in bandwidth and the ability to stream video almost instantly over cellular, that was unimaginable 10 years ago.
AMON: Yes. But if I may, 5G is bigger than that. Here’s how you should think about 5G and that’s why you get so much attention, why you get so much conversation going across multiple industries.
Today, we have pretty much everything, everything in this room that uses electricity. You just assume it’s there.
RITHOLTZ: Has a chip in it.
AMON: No. No. They have electricity.
AMON: And just assume that you connect to the wall because you need electricity and you assume you’re going to find the plug that will be there.
RITHOLTZ: Right. Ubiquitous.
AMON: This is what 5G will do to the Internet. So, 5G is a technology that has been designed not only to provide massive bandwidth to your phones but to connect everything else to the Internet. So, once 5G is done, when we’re done through this decade of 5G and that that work is fully deployed, we’re not going be having conversations about what the use case is.
Internet is going to be there and we’re going to assume it’s there like electricity and everything will be connected to the Internet. So, it’s being designed to connect billions of devices around us in addition to our phones. That’s why this transformation is so big.
RITHOLTZ: So, let me push back against that. So, if you’ve travelled to Asia or Europe, you know that the cellular system seems much more robust. You don’t drop calls. There aren’t one bar or no bar spaces. The broadband is bigger and cheaper.
The thought of Internet everywhere in the United States wireless, hey, they still haven’t figured out how to make sure I can make a goddamn phone call in Manhattan without losing the signal. I mean, the biggest city in New York, we haven’t figured that out yet, why should I think that everything is good connected.
AMON: By the way, we had very good service in San Diego. But having said that …
AMON: … let me tell you this, I hear you and this is exactly one of the biggest obstacles in 5G in the United States right now and that’s not unique to United States and Europe. That’s exactly one area that is too have a lot to be done.
RITHOLTZ: Is that just a function of not enough cell towers up or …
AMON: Yes. Yes.
RITHOLTZ: So, blame the wireless carriers.
AMON: No. No.
RITHOLTZ: I’m blaming, not you, I.
AMON: No. No. No. No. No. They’re not – not their fault. Here’s what’s happening. For example, China.
AMON: China is going to build 1 million 5G base stations by the end of ’20.
AMON: One million.
RITHOLTZ: That’s a lot.
AMON: That’s equivalent to 10 times the number of total base stations across all generations of a single U.S. carrier.
AMON: Here’s what the issue is in the United States and Europe. Carriers need to build infrastructure.
AMON: Before that, they need to build new sites and they have to negotiate city by city to get permits and zoning to get the sites up. And especially for 5G, you need to densify the network because some of those 5G base stations, they look like Wi-Fi access points …
AMON: … and they’re very small and you need many of them.
RITHOLTZ: Got it.
AMON: And you need to put sites everywhere and the number one — if you ask every carrier in America right now, what’s the number one struggled to get 5G everywhere, is can I get the approval to get new sites, and I think we have to do something about it.
It’s OK, it’s understandable that in China, they will issue a document and then one million sites will be built.
RITHOLTZ: Nothing like the centrally planned economy if you want to have full cell coverage everywhere.
AMON: I prefer our system but we have to find a way that we can accelerate the process of building new sites because I think the U.S. economy will benefit from vibrant and competitive 5G infrastructure in place.
We have so many industries. We talk about $13.2 trillion of goods and services of economic growth just based on 5G. And if you remember, if we didn’t have 4G built, United States pioneer 4G, was the first country to deploy 4G nationwide.
AMON: Because of that, we got Instagram, we got Uber, we got Amazon, we got all those companies that Europeans don’t have. And the 5G is going to be no different. So, we need to get the infrastructure built.
RITHOLTZ: Can we stick these 5G receivers or transmitters on the old towers?
AMON: Yes. You can put it on all the old towers and any new towers.
RITHOLTZ: And I notice that a lot of — especially when you’re high up in any sort of office building in New York and you look down on the lower towers, you see the roofs are just festooned with wires and antenna. Are those 4G and 5G type transmitters?
AMON: Those are 4G. You can upgrade those to 5G and you need to add what we call 5G small cells. They look like Wi-Fi routers but you just need to sprinkle them everywhere.
RITHOLTZ: Everywhere. So, they don’t have to be up high. They could be at street level.
AMON: That’s correct.
RITHOLTZ: That’s quite interesting. So, we’ve been talking about innovation and how new ideas come along. Are they primarily driven by the engineers? Are they driven by leadership? Where does innovation come from?
AMON: The answer is both and I think it comes from a company like Qualcomm from understanding what are the problems that need to be solved on the business side and I’ll go a little bit on history.
When we started, for example, 3G, from 2G – when we put ourselves in the map when 2G was CDMA. In 3G, we want to solve one problem which is we need to connect phones to the Internet.
AMON: And after that was done, you probably remember using your Blackberry and people doing emails and …
AMON: … all the great things you can do when you had Internet in your phones. So, the first thing we need to do, how to get phone’s Internet, that’s how 3G got created. We need to get Internet. We need to solve that problem.
4G was a bigger challenge. 4G is we have now two problems to solve. One problem to solve is we needed to bring mobile broadband, broadband to mobile. But then what happens, Barry, when you have broadband from mobile, you need a computer.
So, we need to make those phones into computers. So, we needed to develop. We didn’t have a processor business. We need to create a business of the Snapdragon business. We need to create a processor because — and we were the first company do a gigahertz clock CPU in a battery-powered device. Because now that they have broadband, they need a computer to deal with it.
AMON: And it’s fascinating. It transformed society today. The smartphones for all of us. We have our mobile computer in our hands and that’s our most loved and inseparable device.
AMON: 5G innovation, we have more problems to solve. People want unlimited data. People don’t want to talk about, am I on — do I — I’m going to put this on the cloud and I am going to leave it over there because I’m — I was going to be connected. So, problem still to 5G is can I make your wireless reliable.
You are going to trust that you’re going to be connected. You can leave all this stuff in the cloud because it’s always going to be able to get it because you’re going to have a reliable connectivity. Can I build a system for a society that wants unlimited data and want to connect everything to the Internet and also allow you to have mission-critical capabilities and wireless overtaking (ph) other industries like autonomous cars?
Those are problems to solve. From that, Qualcomm creates fundamental technology. That’s how innovation gets done.
RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. So, technology at least in the form of Facebook and Amazon and Google and Apple has become under assaults from society in general but also from regulators who have been complaining — the politicians complaining it’s too big, it’s anticompetitive, they are monopoly. But what are your thoughts on the state of the giant players in technology and what might the future of policy and regulation look like for the Googles and Amazons and Facebooks and Apples of the world?
AMON: It’s difficult for me to comment on those companies. But I will say from a Qualcomm perspective, we’re not that big yet. We want to continue growing.
But I’ll give you a general answer about technology. Technology, it’s a very important part of the economy and to many aspects, I look at the technology tradition as really a force for good. If we look at what we do as a company, while like with everything that if you don’t have boundaries and you can have problems like with everything, it’s like if you just spend too much time on social media on your phone or if you eat too much, it’s going to be — everything in excess is a problem.
AMON: But if you look at how the technology that we create transform society, like in how we can connect people no matter where they are, how people run their business over their phone to help increase productivity, I think it’s been not only an economic engine but a force for good.
And I feel our mission is to continue developing technologies that would transform society and many of the things that you do, it’s inevitable. It’s just part of continued innovation and evolution of what we all do.
RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. We have been speaking with Cristiano Amon, President of Qualcomm. If you enjoy this conversation, well, be sure and come back for the podcast extras where we keep the tape rolling and continue discussing all things technology related.
You can find that at Apple iTunes, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, wherever you find our podcasts are sold. We love your comments, feedback and suggestions. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out my weekly column on Bloomberg.com. Follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz. I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’re listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.
Masters in Business is brought to you by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Explore Iowa’s advancements in digital and precision agriculture at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit. Register today at worldagritechusa.com.
Welcome to the podcast. Cristiano, thank you so much for doing this. I know you have a plane to catch. So, what I’m going to do was take the standard questions we ask all our guests and we’re going to turn this into a speed round. We’re going to blow through this.
AMON: Sounds good. I’m ready.
RITHOLTZ: You’re ready? First car you ever own, year, make and model.
AMON: I’s a Fiat Tipo. It was — I bought that car in 1993.
RITHOLTZ: What’s the most important thing people don’t know about you?
AMON: The most important thing they don’t know about me, I …
RITHOLTZ: Martial arts, that’s where I was going to go.
AMON: Probably. No. I’ll tell you. I am fascinated with cars especially classic cars …
AMON: … and muscle cars and every car I have, I end up modifying it a lot.
RITHOLTZ: Give us a car that you have and I’ll tell you one that I’m looking to pick up from your hometown.
AMON: And I think this will kind of — yes, it will in the category of a fascinating thing people don’t know about me. Like I drive to work Volkswagen Golf.
RITHOLTZ: I’m so sorry.
AMON: I modified that Golf. I changed everything. It looks like — from the outside, it looks the same. From the inside is like those cars from “Fast and Furious” movie.
AMON: So, that’s it. And then I am — I have another project, I can tell you later, that I’m restoring a car. That’s probably it.
RITHOLTZ: So, there’s a car I’ve fallen in love with from the 1970s and the best examples of them are from your — they’re either in Columbia or Brazil, the Toyota FJ40. That truck sort of like a Jeep and they’re everywhere in South America and there’s no rust down there. So, I’m going to your backyard to pick up an FJ.
AMON: That’s a good car. That’s a good car.
RITHOLTZ: They’re great. Who are your early mentors? Who influenced your career?
AMON: There’s many. I would say — and starting at NEC, the president of NEC in Brazil who was a big influence on me.
RITHOLTZ: What’s his name?
AMON: It was Gilberto Garbi. He’s a professor now. I also had people that I met throughout my career and I’ve always been like this, every different job that I have, I always had people that I look up to and say, I can learn something from that individual. It’s been a constant history to my career.
RITHOLTZ: Tell us about some of your favorite books. What are you reading? What do you like to read?
AMON: Comic books.
RITHOLTZ: Really? Give us some names. Are you enjoying ” Watchmen” on HBO?
AMON: I am enjoying that and I also — I’m now starting “Gotham” as well on Netflix and …
RITHOLTZ: Do you like the whole Marvel Universe?
AMON: Yes, I do.
AMON: Have you been tracking “Avengers” or you’re like a “Spiderman” sort of guy?
AMON: No. I like Marvel.
RITHOLTZ: Where was I going with that? Tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from the experience?
AMON: When I was doing the restructuring of a bankrupt operator in Brazil, plenty of attempts that didn’t work and until we got it right. It’s so difficult environment but I learned a lot from that. I think the ability to learn from mistakes, it’s invaluable. You can never get that in any MBA training …
AMON: … and that’s a very good tool I think for managers.
RITHOLTZ: What do you do for fun?
AMON: I spent a lot of time with my kids. I also do martial arts. I’ve been training martial arts for a number of years and actually, my buddy that I trained for eight years and is my sparring buddy is the San Diego Harbor Police Chief.
RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. Tell us what you’re most optimistic about and most pessimistic about within the world of technology today?
AMON: I’m very optimistic about 5G. I think 5G will have an impact even greater than what people are talking about it right now. I think the transformation will be tremendous.
I think what I’m pessimistic about it is the complexity that it will take to build those networks. It’s one of the topics we talked about. You have to build infrastructure with any starts where you build and then they will, and I think we still have a lot of work to do to get that done.
RITHOLTZ: What sort of advice would you give a recent college graduate who is considering a career in either technology or engineering?
AMON: OK. What’s very valuable for me, try to understand — and as the early day you can understand this, the more successful you’re going to be, try to understand what are the things that you’re really good at and what are the things that you’re not and try to focus your career in the areas that you can put your skills and quality to work and try to get together with people that can help you in the areas that you’re not.
And it’s interesting, one of the greatest tools that helped me a lot in managing my career is really not focusing on one of the things that I can do well but understanding what are the things that I cannot do so I can overcome those challenges.
RITHOLTZ: And our final question, what do you know about the world of technology and mobile and semiconductors today that you wish you knew 25 years ago when you first getting start?
AMON: I — that’s a very profound question. What I would say is when — if I had the understanding of how broad mobile would have become, we probably made some bets in different segments earlier. But everything has its time.
AMON: I know that was the last question but I am intrigued by what you told me about the FJ40.
AMON: So, there’s a car that I always loved as a kid.
AMON: It was — it’s — I love the muscle cars and it was a Chevrolet that was designed in Brazil for the Brazilian market, it’s a Chevrolet Opala.
AMON: It’s in between the Camaro and the Chevelle.
AMON: It’s bigger than the Camara, it’s smaller than the Chevelle. But it’s very unique and I just found one in a tiny CD, I took it in California, took nine months to come here and I’m rebuilding it. I’m very excited about it. It’s a 1976 Opala Chevrolet SS and …
AMON: Opala, O-P-A-L-A, and I think they may be the first SS in California.
RITHOLTZ: Wow. Look at that.
AMON: So, I’m excited about that.
RITHOLTZ: That is sort of an unusual car. Not quite an Opel. Not quite — I don’t even know how else I would describe that.
AMON: It’s not an Opel, not a Chevelle, not a Camaro. It’s something different.
RITHOLTZ: Quite interesting. And does it use standard Chevy parts?
AMON: Everything, it’s the original engine, it’s the in-line six that was in the Camaros all the way to 1979.
RITHOLTZ: So, I’m going to say that’s probably the thing that people don’t know about you.
RITHOLTZ: That. We have been speaking with Cristiano Amon, President of Qualcomm.
I you enjoy this conversation, be sure to look up an inch or down an inch on Apple iTunes and you could see any of the previous 300 or so such conversations we’ve had over the past five years. We love your comments, feedback and suggestions. Write to us at email@example.com. Go to Apple iTunes and please give us a review.
Be sure and check out my weekly column on Bloomberg.com. Follow me on Twitter @Ritholtz. Sign up for the daily reads @ritholtz.com.
I would be remiss if I did not thank the crack staff that helps me put this little conversation together each week, Mark Siniscalchi is my audio engineer, Sam Shivraj is my producer, Michael Batnick is my head of research, I’m Barry Ritholtz, you’ve been listening to Masters in Business on Bloomberg Radio.
Masters in Business is brought to you by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Explore Iowa’s advancements in digital and precision agriculture at the World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit. Register today at worldagritechusa.com.