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on the suppliers (like HP), as far as what products they want to see in their (computer) products.
What will your responsibilities be as a board member? These days, corporate boards seem to be much more active in company business.
Topfer: Clearly so. I've always been a very engaged board member. I think that Hector is looking to the board for help in the strategy of the company. The board's responsibilities are to represent the shareholders and make sure a company is doing all things appropriately.
But I think where a good board can help a CEO is in the area of strategy and financial performance; decisions as to partnering and acquisitions, divestitures and things like that. There is a whole slew of things that corporate boards today are going to be involved in the decision making...as representatives of the shareholders.
So it seems that AMD wants you to roll up your sleeves and get involved?
Topfer: One of the first things I said to Hector is that I'm not a passive board member. He said, "I've known you for 25 years. You didn't have to tell me that."
Are there any big strategic moves you think AMD might be eyeing?
Topfer: I think Hector is in the process of looking at the portfolio of the company and making some decisions on where he wants to drive the company over the next five or more years. Those things are evolving.
There's been talk in the press about the flash memory area. Clearly, (AMD's) two main businesses are the microprocessor business and the flash memory business. The flash memory business is a somewhat more cyclical business than the microprocessor business.
Topfer: Those are the issues I think Hector and the management team need to work through and bring recommendations to the board.
That's the way the process works. The board's role, I think, is more in a review process and to make sure that those directions are appreciated from a shareholder perspective.
Do you think you can help AMD win any new customers?
Topfer: I will help in any way I can.
Have you been watching developments in the PC market of late? Do you have any advice for Dell?
Topfer: I think they're doing everything right. I really do. As long as they keep executing, they'll keep gaining market share. I think the IBM uncertainty (created by its plan to sell its PC unit to Lenovo Group) is going to help them. I think the HP uncertainty can't hurt them. So I think they've got a lot of cards falling in their direction right now.
Topfer: I have read as much as you have. Obviously, Carly was not hitting the numbers and not meeting her commitments, and that impacted somewhat the confidence of the board in her. From what I've read, she was reluctant to give up any authority and clashed with the board.
These days, the board is there to represent the shareholders--I think the (HP) stock is down 50 percent since she took over the company--I think it was time...for her to move because they couldn't reach agreement.
If HP offered, would you take over?
Topfer: I'm much too old for that. One of the challenges I think HP will have is to find someone that can run that company. From all the people I've seen on the list so far, none of them blow me away as being someone who's going to step in and fix that company. The CEO of an $80 billion company with a broad product portfolio is a very tough job to find somebody to fit.
Topfer: It's tough to compete against Dell. The PC part of IBM hasn't been important to IBM's vision for a long, long, long time. I think they've found a way to serve their customers and exit.
I frankly have some questions in my mind about how loyal those customers will be to a Chinese PC company. I think that represents another opportunity for Dell.