Mayer's $6 billion Austin, Texas-based company, a recent spin-off from Motorola, is one of the 10 largest microchip manufacturers in the world. When it comes to brand awareness, it's another story.
While the public may not have a clue, industry insiders are quite familiar with Freescale. The company's best-known client is Apple Computer, which is under contract to use Freescale chips to build its G4 PowerPC computers through the end of 2008. The company has about 10,000 other customers, including the top 10 automotive manufacturers.
Recently, Freescale signed a multiyear electronics design partnership with Cadence Design Systems and also acquired CommASIC, a fabless semiconductor company based in San Diego that specializes in combining multiple wireless networking technologies onto a single microprocessor.
CNET News.com sat down with Mayer to talk about Freescale's evolution, as well as the future of the PowerPC architecture and the company's growing role in creating embedded processors.
Q: Will Cadence be responsible for all the chips that Freescale produces from the PowerPC, all the way down to small embedded wireless radios?
Mayer: Yes, everything. Even analog.
How much more are you planning on streamlining?
Mayer: Cost savings are one element, but it's really more about being more effective. Our existing structure, which was dispersed, allowed the centralized little groups to make their own decisions in terms of design tool environments. We didn't think it was going to make it...if we were going to grow, we needed to have a stronger and more stable design tools platform.
Speaking of growth, talk about your acquisition of CommASIC. How will it help with your future wireless designs?
Mayer: It was important for us to acquire the capacity to include low-power wireless LAN in our designs because increasingly, mobile phones are going to be multimode devices. I mean, 4G (fourth-generation wireless) is really going to be full multimode. You'll be able to switch between your network, your carrier, Wi-Fi, voice over IP, Bluetooth--whatever. To prepare for that, we needed to have a low-power Wi-Fi implementation.
It does seem that the company is going through some sort of a transition.
Mayer: It's more of an evolution of existing businesses.
Some analysts compare Freescale to Texas Instruments because you both deal with a lot of analog designs. What is it that appeals to you about analog?
Mayer: I think analog is very important. Analog, as you know, is what is required to deal with anything that's not purely digital, and not a lot of things in the real world are purely digital.
Are there unexplored areas that you'd like to go into?
Mayer: We've opened the design and quality center in Nagoya, in the heart of the Japanese automotive valley.
Consumer electronics is another area of growth for us. We have started to take technology that we put into cars and brought them to other consumer devices. The technology that moves the seats in the car moves the autofocus on a Canon Digital Rebel. The little microcontrollers that deploy air bags now go into toasters, into fridges, doing little functions like that.
Then, of course, wireless outside of Motorola is a huge growth opportunity for us, so that's where our focus is right now.
What about on the desktop?
Mayer: Desktop is a very small piece of our business, and it's going away. Our only customer is Apple (for laptops), and they are switching to Intel sometime next year. We were not happy to lose a customer, but frankly, with all of the growth opportunities that we have in front of us, it was not a good use of our resources to try to defend half a percent market share, which is how much desktop we have against Intel.
OK, Intel has the PC, that's fine. There are so many opportunities outside the PC that it's much better using our resources to try to go into spaces where we are really leaders.
Innovation is moving away from the PC space, and it's moving to consumer electronics. It's moving to the game console. It's moving to cars. It's moving to phones. iPod, that's where innovation is. So desktop is not a market that we want to serve.
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