NEW YORK Ė How many people does it take to run a mobile chip company these days? Anyone care to guess?
Well, Iíve checked, and apparently you need 4,000 to 5,000 employees.
Until recently, I had no idea on how big an engineering team a mobile chip vendor needs to develop a mobile platform that covers both "global" modem technologies and apps processors.
I was stunned when I heard a Renesas Mobile executive rattling off the number of people he said a mobile chip company needs. Specifically, he cited the manpower needed for everything from the actual development of a modem chip to pushing the modem chip out in the field, to getting an operatorís certification.
I followed up by talking to more people in the mobile IC industry, each time popping the "how-many-people-does-it-take-to-screw-in-a-light-bulb" question. They all confirmed that 1,000 engineers arenít enough, especially if youíre gunning for the global market.
In early 2009, when ST-Ericsson was born as a result of the merger of Ericsson Mobile Platforms and ST-NXP Wireless, the announcement said 8,500 people would be working for ST-Ericsson.
In April, struggling ST-Ericsson said it would cut 1,700 jobs, or 25 per cent of its workforce, including some senior executives, to reduce administrative expenses. As drastic as this sounded, it would still leave ST-Ericsson today with close to 5,000 employees. After STís announcement on Monday (Dec. 10) that it will exit the ST-Ericsson joint venture in the third quarter of 2013, observers in the financial community insisted that ST-Ericsson, if itís serious about finding a buyer, still needs to shed more workers.
Renesas Mobile, similarly distressed, also employs close to 4,000 people.
MediaTek, 65 percent to 70 percent of whose revenue is generated by the mobile business, employs about 6,600 people. In other words, MediaTek, has more than 4,000 employees committed to mobile technology development.