Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm: “We are more than willing to partner with chipmakers in Europe” | Technology
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Cristiano Amon has chaired and directed Qualcomm since June 2021, the North American multinational creator of the chips (semiconductors) present in more than 2,000 devices that, without these circuits, would be nothing more than paperweights. This engineer, born in São Paulo (Brazil) 52 years ago, is enthusiastic about martial arts. His collaborators say that this hobby has taught him not to belittle his rivals. He is the first to arrive at the office and harangues his most direct employees (the company has 45,000 workers worldwide) with the metaphor of the gladiator in the Roman coliseum: “Only if you win, do you have the opportunity to return to the arena ”.
The company that runs Amon is one of the mothers of mobile connectivity (since the old 3G) and is behind all generations of wireless connections (they are already ready for Wifi 7). The heart of the new developments has just been presented by the CEO of Qualcomm on the Hawaiian island of Maui, an event to which El País has been invited along with other international media. This is the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, a chip created to process with artificial intelligence and that multiplies performance by 4.35 with 60% less energy consumption. It is the multinational’s trump card to weather the “perfect storm” in the semiconductor industry.
Ask. The chip market has gone from a supply crisis to a demand crisis due to the effects of inflation on device sales. What is your perspective?
Response. Chips are an essential ingredient of our digital economy, and we will continue to need them more and more as everything becomes more intelligently connected. Just look at the automotive industry: each new generation multiplies the number of semiconductors by 10. So nothing has changed in the long-term perspective. In the next five to 10 years, total chip manufacturing capacity worldwide will need to double. What is happening in the short term is something different and it is a very cyclical, temporary event. We had limited supply for about two years because the pandemic [de la covid] accelerated demand for products. People bought new phones, computers and printers and demanded broadband and so on. As a result, the companies began to increase their production and the restrictions began to be resolved. Then there is a macroeconomic environment of uncertainty: inflation, high energy costs, China blocked… It has been a perfect storm. They are cyclical events that can last a quarter or two, but then the industry returns to normal. I believe that initiatives such as the United States law of Chips and Science [Chips and Science Act, una reciente ley de ayudas federales para fomentar la fabricación de microprocesadores en los EEUU] it’s more important than ever because we need to have a resilient and geographically diverse supply chain.
We need to have a resilient and geographically diverse supply chain
P. From this initiative comes an investment from his company and GlobalFoundries to allocate 4,110 million euros to expand the chip factory of the second company in New York. However, Europe is still highly dependent on external markets. Do you have a similar investment plan in Spain or Latin America?
R. Allow me an important clarification: we [Qualcomm] we do not manufacture However, we have been very active in supporting and directing our suppliers. We work with GlobalFoundries, with TSMC in Taiwan, with Samsung in Korea, and we’ve directed them to invest in different geographies. We will be happy to do with TSMC or Samsung, for example, the same thing that we have done with GlobalFoundries to increase production in the United States. If they want to invest in manufacturing in Europe, we are more than willing to partner with them and be a customer.
Q. It has just presented its new generation of chips, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which aspires to the convergence of the mobile with other devices. What does it mean?
R. Mobile technologies go to all the other devices, so all of them are now being enabled with technology that was available on mobile devices. It’s about making all your other gadgets as connected as a smartphone. That’s where we are. Snapdragon evolves towards that, from the phone to the Windows laptop, to the car or to the headphones. Basically, we’re on how to bring the mobile experience to all devices.
Q. Do you believe in the metaverse?
R.. Yes, the metaverse means different people, things, and companies. The easiest way to explain why we are so focused on this and we think it is going to be a great opportunity is the fusion of physical and digital spaces connected to the cloud. You’re going to have digital twins of everything and the ability to access them from the virtual world and bring them in front of your eyes. There are many interesting use cases and it’s not about one company doing everything or all of a sudden living your life virtually. You’re going to have different consumer-to-business and consumer-to-consumer applications. It’s easy to see a fully immersive world in virtual reality where you can engage in social interactions, go to a business application or benefit from an education plan. We’re just at the beginning, and as devices get smaller and more affordable, we’re going to see an ecosystem of app developers. The metaverse is eventually going to be as big as the world of mobile phones.
The metaverse will eventually be as big as the world of mobile phones.
Q. The new generation of Snapdragon claims to be more powerful in terms of processing and more energy efficient.
R. The smartphone has probably been one of the most efficient devices in consumer electronics and has dramatically contributed to reducing energy use and sustainability by eliminating devices such as cameras or portable music and video players. There’s something unique about the smartphone: it’s a very low-power and efficient device, but for all the new technology to be effective at gigabit speeds or for console-quality gaming or for applying artificial intelligence to the camera, all processing has to be done without compromising battery life. This has to last all day. The Snapdragon has incredible computing power, but reduces power consumption so that you still have a full day of battery life in the end.
Q. Qualcomm has been at the origin of connectivity developments and now it is turning to Wifi 7, the latest generation of wireless connection. Is the rest of the industry ready?
R. Definitely. Think of all the devices we currently have connected wirelessly. last mile connectivity [de tramo final] it is wireless and we are going to see a world where all devices will have 5G [última generación de conexión móvil]. We learned it during the pandemic. Now, for example, if there is a company meeting, some people will attend remotely, connected to devices. They will have a lot of data stored in the cloud and will need a channel with high bandwidth and low latency. Work is changing and we are all going to need Wi-Fi 7. Also for phones, which are productivity devices. The transition to this wireless generation is going to be faster than we think. It will be rolled out across the enterprise and soon for home broadband.
The transition to Wi-Fi 7, the latest wireless generation, is going to be faster than we think.
Q. But the telcos are in a price war and say they can’t invest at current margins.
R. The digital economy will need a gigabit society, so we’re talking about connectivity, whether it’s fiber to the home with Wi-Fi or mobile 5G. That infrastructure is critical to the economy, like roads, railways or the power grid, and has direct implications for competitiveness when everything moves digital. This is why I really like and fully support some of the initiatives of the EU or of companies like Telefónica so that the main companies that take advantage of this infrastructure with cloud services pay in a way that generates investment. In the end, if Spain or any other country does not build a critical infrastructure network for that gigabit society, it will have many more consequences than the fact that a consumer has a more or less fast connection. That companies with cloud services and that use the infrastructure must pay. I think it is a great initiative and very important.
I fully support initiatives such as Telefónica so that the main companies that take advantage of the infrastructure with cloud services pay in a way that generates investments
P. Practice martial arts. Does it help you to compete in the world of technology or should this tend to cooperation?
R. It’s a complicated question and I have two answers. The first is that the industry has had to learn to compete [palabra formada por los verbos cooperar y competir] because no one company can do everything and, in the end, you need partnerships. Qualcomm is a chip supplier for Samsung, which has Snapdragon in some of its models. At the same time, Samsung is my supplier, since we have used their factories. Companies have to cooperate a lot and that is the way to go. The other answer is that technology is a tough business. With the Qualcomm team I use the gladiator analogy. When you bet on a technology with large investments it is like two wrestlers in the Roman coliseum and there are only three possible outcomes: win, lose or both lose. But only if you win, you can return to the arena.
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