I am told Ploss is one of the good guys. He has an engineering background and joined Siemens in 1986 as a process engineer for ion implantation. He spent many years in power semiconductors and led the automotive business unit from 2000, taking a seat on the Infineon management board in 2007.
But I think there may be a touch of the new broom here – or rather the new teacher. During their training teachers are often told to draw the line on the slightly harsh side of fair with a new class. Once you have gained the students' respect you can start to grant a little more freedom to individuals who you know won't abuse it. It is much harder to move in the other direction.
It feels like Reinhard is drawing the austerity line on the harsh-side of necessary.
Engineers have a number of attributes. They can be incredibly focused and disciplined, understanding that the laws of physics are immutable. They can also be visionary and find elegant solutions to seemingly impossible problems.
It is to be hoped that as well bringing the discipline of worst-case engineering to his fiscal management style Ploss will be also bring creativity and lateral thinking, and an understanding that investments and progress made during hard times – when done right – produce increased profits in the good times.
The risk is that if Ploss is too austere, and puts Infineon to sleep for too long, the company will wake up to find the honey has all been grabbed by agile, optimistic young cubs from Asia and North America.
Sleep is a low-energy state compared to dynamic activity when awake.
There is still a lot of brain activity, breathing, processing of food and information going on. But things slow down; tired muscles rest and repair.
In that sense it feels like Infineon, which made a good profit in FY12, is a strong company but has decided to slow things down and at least take things easy through a difficult winter.
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