Fast Move As Ex-AMD Exec Becomes Synaptics CEO

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Rick Bergman, who left chip maker AMD a week ago, is now the new president and CEO of Synaptics

Rick Bergman has resurfaced as the new president and CEO of Synaptics, a week after leaving Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) after five years with the company.

Synaptics, which makes interfaces for computer devices in the mobile computing and communications fields, announced that Bergman is replacing Russ Knittle, who had spent almost a year as interim president and CEO. Bergman became the latest official to leave AMD during a year in which the chip maker has seen significant executive turnover.

Product Fusion

Bergman (pictured) arrived at AMD in 2006 with graphics technology maker ATI Technologies for $5.5 billion (£3.5bn). The deal was controversial at the time and for a while had been a drag on AMD finances, but it also formed the basis for the company’s Fusion strategy of integrating the graphics capabilities and the CPU on the same piece of silicon. The first of the Fusion APUs (accelerated processing units) were released at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in January.

The Fusion chips have helped buoy AMD’s standing in the worldwide processor market. Mercury Research in July said the Fusion chips helped AMD grow its share of the chip market to 19.4 percent in the second quarter, an increase over its 17.8 percent share during the same period last year.

As senior vice president and general manager of AMD’s products group, Bergman oversaw the vendor’s computing platforms and was responsible for the CPU and graphics product development teams. His work at AMD makes Bergman a good fit at Synaptics, according to Francis Lee, chairman of Synaptics’ board of directors.

“Rick is a visionary leader with a proven track record of driving performance to a higher level,” Lee said in a statement. “He is an ideal fit to help Synaptics further capitalise on the rapid growth of capacitive touch technology within an expanding range of markets. … With the addition of Rick’s deep industry expertise and extensive product focus, Synaptics is very well-positioned to continue its culture of innovation and technological leadership.”

Bergman said he is coming to Synaptics at an important time in the company’s evolution.

“Synaptics is at the forefront of the industry as the innovator in its markets and is poised to benefit from a refreshed and expanded product portfolio, including the most advanced next generation touch solutions available today,” Bergman said in a statement. “I have always been impressed by Synaptics’ track record of financial performance and am drawn to the tremendous talent and engineering depth across the organisation.”

Synaptics’ TouchPad flagship product can be found in many of the notebooks on the market, and its technology also can be found in a number of other devices, including tablets, mobile phones and PC peripherals.

Bergman is among a number of executives who have left AMD since the beginning of the year. Dirk Meyer resigned as CEO in January after disagreements with the company’s board of directors about the direction of the chip maker. Among the disagreements was the board’s dissatisfaction with AMD’s response to the booming tablet and smartphone markets.

Several other executives left in the months following departure of Meyer, who was replaced in August by former Lenovo executive Rory Read.

Business Looking Chipper

Despite the turnover, AMD officials have spent the year pushing its Fusion strategy and releasing APUs for a variety of desktops and notebooks, as well as embedded devices. At the same time, they have been preparing the next generation of Opteron server chips based on the new “Bulldozer” architecture.

AMD has run into recent issues with its chips, however. The company reduced its third-quarter financial outlook due to problems at manufacturing partner Globalfoundries’ Germany factory that has led to limited supplies of the 32-nanometer “Llano” Fusion APUs and delayed shipments of the 12- to 16-core Opteron 6200 Series “Interlagos” chips.

AMD took a beating from some analysts and investors after the downgraded outlook was released. However, some analysts said AMD still has strengths despite the recent problems.

“While this is definitely a disappointment, and two steps back on its turnaround, we believe AMD still has a compelling portfolio of notebook Llano and Bulldozer products, with OEM demand,” Sterne Agee analyst Vijay Rakesh said in a note. “Given the execution issues, investors will put AMD in the penalty box. Nonetheless, we still believe AMD is an attractive [investment] opportunity, as it still has solid OEM demand for its [notebook and server] products and the supply issue should be a near-term issue.”

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