ARM, the British chip architecture firm responsible for powering the vast majority of mobile phones and tablets, will soon have a new CEO: Simon Segars, currently the company’s president. Warren East will retire at the end of June.
East, 51, has been CEO at ARM since 2001, although he has been at the firm since 1994 (he was originally head of ARM’s consulting business, then business operations chief, then COO). Segars, 45, has been at the company even longer – since 1991, shortly before Apple incorporated the ARM6 design into its Newton PDA. Like East, Segars is an engineer who evolved into sales and business development roles.
Both men are largely responsible for turning ARM, once a mere spinoff of Acorn Computers, into what it is today: Intel’s nightmare. For not only does ARM dominate in the mobile device, which is in itself supplanting Intel’s desktop base, and in embedded processors, but it is even squaring up to the x86 crowd in the server space. And all the while, it doesn’t have to make the processors itself: unlike Intel, ARM only designs the architecture, leaving the rest up to a massive partner ecosystem featuring players such as Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia.
Here’s ARM chairman John Buchanan:
“Warren has transformed ARM during his time as CEO. In 2001 ARM had one processor product line found mainly in mobile phones. Now ARM provides the broadest portfolio of technologies in the industry, used by more than 300 semiconductor customers in nearly 9 billion chips last year.
“During Warren’s tenure the company has received royalties for over 40 billion ARM-based chips. As CEO he has created a strong platform for growth and consistently created value for shareholders even in a challenging external environment. On behalf of the Board, and the wider ARM team, deep thanks are due to Warren for his passion, service and leadership.”
So, will the leadership change affect ARM’s strategy? Right now ARM is safe in its mobile stronghold, although Intel’s efforts there are not the joke observers once suspected they might be – Intel’s mobile processors are surprisingly capable when it comes to raw performance and power efficiency, although ARM still edges ahead in the graphics department.
We can glean a sense of continuity from the words of East and Segars themselves. According to East, the two men “share a global perspective and belief in the ARM approach to partnership and collaboration.” Segars said East’s “vision of the ARM business model and commitment to the ARM partnership has been inspirational and has created a tremendous platform for future growth”.