Read All About It: Five Reasons AMD Picked The Right CEO3:30 PM EST Fri. Aug. 26, 2011
The search is finally over: AMD tapped Lenovo's Rory Read as its new CEO. Read, formerly president and COO of Lenovo, has plenty of experience in the PC market, and now he'll be charged with turning around AMD and making its new Fusion APU (accelerated processing unit) product family a game-changing success. Here are five reasons why Read can make that happen.
Few top executives in the IT industry are as passionate about the channel as Read. He's one of the big reasons Lenovo has made so much progress with its indirect sales over the last two years (here's a video of Read's keynote at Lenovo's partner conference last May). Read has built a reputation in recent years as a very partner-friendly and accessible executive, consistently preaching a channel-centric strategy.
In fact, Read said on an conference call with press and analysts Thursday that he would spend the next 30 days traveling all over the world to meet with customers and partners. That's a big plus for AMD, which could use a stronger channel presence to boost its Fusion APUs and win market share against Intel.
Lenovo was in the midst of slumping sales in early 2009 when Read, formerly senior vice president of operations, was promoted to a newly created position of president and COO (former Lenovo Chairman Yang Yuanqing also took over as CEO when William Amelio resigned). Since that time, a revamped Lenovo introduced a series of hot new products and also increased its sales and channel presence. Lenovo saw seven straight quarters as the fastest growing major PC maker in the world, and is number three in worldwide PC market share. Read says he's committed to doing the same for AMD. "I know it's not going to be easy. Nothing ever is in this industry," Read told press and analysts. "I want to win. I believe we can be stronger than ever."
AMD has praised Read's operational experience and ability to drive profitable growth. Analysts seem impressed with Read, too. "We believe his track record with Lenovo… will bring the necessary experience needed to improve OpEx and lead AMD’s road map progress," wrote Vijay Rakesh, analyst at Sterne Agee.
You can't be one of the top two executives at a major computer maker and not believe in the PC. Not only does Read believe in the PC, but after more than two decades at IBM and five years at Lenovo, he's deeply knowledgeable about the market and has made astute observations about where it's going (check out Read's prediction for netbooks).
And while Read has been praised for his operational experience, he's also not afraid to talk technology and hype new products at shows like CES. That PC experience will be crucial for AMD as it works to build up its Fusion presence in desktops and notebooks in both the consumer and commercial segments. Read said Fusion is "just scratching the surface" and also discounted any talk about the death of the PC. "I firmly believe that the core PC market will continue to expand," he said during the conference call.
While most Lenovo products carry Intel chips, the computer maker is nevertheless a significant AMD partner and Fusion supporter. Read knows the company, its business practices and its technologies; AMD, he said, has a long history of going about business "the right way." He's familiar enough with AMD and it's place in the industry that he wasn't scared to take on the CEO job, which is a big vote of confidence for the chip maker.
Read will also be able to offer a fresh perspective to the chip maker, according to AMD Chairman Bruce Claflin. "As a former [AMD] customer, he will bring the voice of the customer inside the company," Claflin said. That will be a big plus for AMD.
As president and COO of a Chinese computer maker, Read has plenty of experience with the emerging market of China. The country is now the largest PC market in the world and is poised to get even bigger in the future. Read knows not only how big the opportunity is in China, but he's also aware that the country is unique and knows that certain products may be better suited for one geography and not others (for example, Lenovo launched its Lephone smartphone in China but has yet to release the model in North America or Europe).
Meanwhile, chip makers like AMD and Intel are seeing an increasingly large portion of their revenue come from emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC). Read will likely lean on his knowledge of China and his background at Lenovo to strengthen AMD's ties to both.