Steve Appleton, who died Friday Feb.3, 2012, in a plane crash, worked for Micron Technology Inc. throughout his professional career. And soon after he took the top job there in 1994 he became boss of the last U.S. DRAM maker. As such it was a highly politicized position and it suited him; a robust operator who could be vocal against overseas competition.
Throughout his career he sought to grow Micron's scale by picking up businesses here and wafer fabs there, as others lost their appetite for the hard graft. It can be seen that Appleton was a conservative who used U.S. strategic considerations to his company's advantage but who, with his untimely death, has left Micron holding the bag on DRAM and half in and half out of NAND flash memory via a joint venture with Intel.
Appleton was already at Micron in the 1980s, but not yet in a senior position, when anti-dumping suits against Japanese DRAM manufacturers – led by Micron – and SIA petitions to the U.S. government started to have their effect. In September 1986, a semiconductor trade agreement was signed that addressed concerns over dumping of chips at below cost in the U.S. market and access to the Japanese market for U.S. companies. The Japanese specifically undertook to increase foreign companies' market share to 20 percent within five years.
It may well have been these maneuvers that colored Appleton's approach during the next major DRAM crisis.
But in June 1998, soon after Appleton had risen to the position of chairman and CEO at Micron, he was looking to build Micron's position. The company agreed to take over the DRAM business of Texas Instruments Inc., increasing market share but at a time when Micron was making losses due to collapsing selling prices for DRAMs.
It's not possible to encapsulate the life of a man in two pages, but as far as Appleton's career in the semiconductor business, this hits the highs and lows as well as it possibly could. It's a very sad day for the chip industry.
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"Intel invested $450 million in Micron in September 2003 to help it expand 300-mm wafer production and DDR2 production"
The above statement is false. Intel invested nearly $500 million in Micron for the sole reason of ramping the production of RDRAM which the DRAM price fixing cartel (comprised of Micron, Infineon, Hynix & Samsung) purposely boycotted with the (successful) objective of driving RDRAM out of the DRAM market completely.
Steve Appleton was a fierce enemy of US innovation as he was spearheading a global conspiracy to steal Rambus' foundational IP and destroy it as an on going concern.
Steve Appleton led a global conspiracy aimed at the destruction of Rambus and the pure IP/NPE business model, using legal, financial and political tools to wage brutal persecution upon Rambus.
myself, as many others I believe are not shedding tears upon his departure...
You said it right. Appleton shut down the RDRAM dram production after buying the Toshiba dram plant that was making good quality high volume RDRAM to shut down the lifeblood of Rambus's RDRAM volumes when during the early part of ramping up RDRAM for Intel's P4 RDRAM CPU products. It was shown at Antittrust trial but 9 Jurors ignored the evidence. Lawyer Price used the US job scare to help them win that case. He said Micron goes Banrupt in 2 months if they are found guilty and Rambus lose still be OK since they are collect licenses from many dram makers for sdram and ddr products. That scare the shit out of these Jurors in SF. Micron cannot compete witn samsung anyway so in the next few years, what will happen to Micron? I think EK is a good example of where Micron is headed. If you disagree, you must have a brain size smaller than a pea.
Micron hated Hynix but in 2000-2001 wanted to buy Hynix because they want to kill Rambus. Antitrust court records shown that clearly. Hynix was forgiven y the FTC for dumping charges when CEO of Micron met secretly with Hyix CEO and the next few days or months they filed lawsuits from coast to coast to litigate Rambus to death. Can people see such simple truths or keep on denying these thieves criminal acts? Why do you hate Rambus for inventing dram inventions Jedec copied? Dont forget in 1992, when Rambus showed their inventions to these companies, nobody believd it would work or their inventions would work so how the hell they stole these ideas from Jedec? You ask yourself, how? Nobody believed those ideas would work. The industry just hated Rambus because they invented something they need but don't want to pay for a license for it. It is that simple. I believe if someone invented something of value, either you pay for it or not use it in your products. Rambus was never allow to present at jedec meetings deliberately by Jedec.
We have to be honest. Pay for inventions if you use them in your products. is that so hard to do? or just leave it out. is that hard to ask?
Just like buying an undervalue house fixing it up and sell it for a much higher profit. Is that wrong? Even a troll deserves to be rewarded for their abilities to find valuable patents from other inventors who sold them. It is the same thing as buying a cheap painting from a flea market and later found out it is worth millions. Nothing wrong with selling something of value to others. This is capitalism at work. If you don't want to pay for inventions then just leave it out. What so difficult about that? If you have to use that inventions, this just proves these inventions aare significant. Is that hard for engineers to understand? So, please don't bash any inventors asking for a license. It is their inventions that companies to stealing.
Some postings in the above forum have been taken down. The EE Times forum encourages debate and freedom of speech but it is not the place for personal attacks leveled at people in the news or against other contributors.
If there was ever any reality behind theory of "dumping semiconductors" it had all but been transformed into a political charade by the time Micron started picking on the Koreans in the mid '90s.
I debated the dumping issue with Steve a number of times in person, on the phone and by email. He would acknowledge that the ultimate goal was to raise prices, not protect U.S. strategic interests.
Regardless of our differences, he was always polite and professional. may he rest in peace.
The lesson here is daring adventures could lead to shorter lifespan. Some people can this Karma but I called it chance of death. Just like committing a crime,a robber will get caught sooner or later if they keep on committing a crime.
This is why we learned from Confucius to be a righteous man standing up with pride instead of the lowly man who has lack of respect.
Aside from Confucious getting lost in translation, Appleton took his chances and paid the price. There are other high profile pilots (such as John Travolta and David Gilmour) who fly safely and grow old. The first rule of doing something dangerous is "Don't screw up". If you can't guarantee that, don't do it.
In the movies, the coward guy normally runs to the cops for plea agreement for immunity. That is exactly what Appleton did after the doj investigated priing fixing charges during the time when Intel was transitioning to RDRAM for an amestry agreement and no Micron employees went to jail.
Nice piece Peter. As you say, Steve played a sometimes poor hand of cards well. As a pilot myself, I also am very sorry to see that cause his death. Yes, those who never take risks may have a longer lifespan, but ultimately what's the point of life unless you make something of it.
It saddens me for so many of these comments to be focused on the RDRAM situation. There is so much more to the Steve Appleton story. There are few CEO's that are so approachable, so generous to their communities, and willing to forego salary during hard times. He will be missed.
Well, as an "outsider" at the same JEDEC meetings that RAMBUS was banned from, the description from webserver227 above is quite different from the many companies attending. These included Micron, ATI, Hynix, Infineon, Intel, and many others. I don't want to badmouth Rambus, other than to say that there are two sides to the story.
WRT Steve Appleton, he led a truly unique company. They had (I'm a bit out of touch with recent activity) a lot of internal R&D and didn't hesitate to develop their own solutions. In fact, in some areas with which I was familiar, they had some predatory IP of their own. I think you'll find that any large and successful (as judged by relative longevity) company will tend to be that way.
folks , it' s time to adopt some religion.
Steve put all his energy and hope in airplanes (20+), it's insane and unhealthy.
he didn't have a full life as he claimed as well, consider his 4 kids left behind...