In its effort to pry open the mobile handset market, MIPS thus far
gathered a total of seven mobile customers. These seven licensees are
“currently working on smart phones and media tablets using MIPS cores,”
according to Art Swift, vice president of marketing at MIPS. These seven
do not include companies developing MIPS-based personal media players
or portable GPS, Swift added.
One clear indication of MIPS’ momentum
is the profile of its licensees. “40 percent of MIPS’s customers today
are those who have never done business with MIPS before,” according to
Benchmark’s Mobley, earlier last week noted in his research
note that Beceem, Altair, Sequans, Wintegra, Mavrix and other unnamed
licensees continue to develop basebands based on MIPS processor cores.
“The momentum of the Android operating system, combined with the open
architecture of the OS, is allowing MIPS to penetrate the application
processor market for the first time. We believe the rushed pace of chip
development activity in order to address Android-based smart phones, is
helping catalyze MIPS’ license pipeline,” Mobley explained.
however, just downgraded MIPS today, because he is not sure if MIPS will
be able to take more than 10% market share from ARM in the mobile
application processor and baseband processor markets. But of course, any
such result would take years to materialize, and nobody has set a
deadline for MIPS to reach 10% in the mobile processor (baseband &
Market expectations aside, MIPS is expanding its profit margin.
company’s profit margin is as big as “44 percent per each sales
dollar,” said Vij, making MIPS “one of the most profitable tech
companies today.” That creates more ‘room’ for MIPS to invest further,
MIPS is also hiring.
Although the company
“re-allocated” its resources earlier this year, “We have today more
people – in net – working at MIPS,” said Vij. MIPS hired about 30 people
– including contractors – since the beginning of this year. The company
still has 10 positions open, added Vij.
In sum, MIPS is riding high. CEO Vij had legitimate reason for chest-thumping, if he had so chosen.
‘Companies need to have a soul’
he chose to note during the interview: “You know, we talk about our
technology, products and financial results all the time.” But what’s
rarely talked about is that “companies need to have a soul,” stressed
By “having a soul,” Vij means that the corporation assumes the
responsibility of taking good care of employees and their families; it
knows how to respond to its engineers (“engineers need to see how their
technologies are actually deployed,” said Vij); and it makes sure that
employees embody the company’s values, in word and deed. MIPS has
trusted its employees’ instincts (Android running on MIPS grew from a
“skunkworks” project that started within the company a few years ago,
according to Swift).
MIPS, since Vij took the helm in January, has
been holding a monthly company-wide meeting with all employees present
or dialed in, talking to a key customer, invited by MIPS, about the
real-life use of the MIPS’ core. “Everyone at our company needs to know
how our customers are using our technology, what they like and what they
don’t like. Nothing satisfies engineers more than seeing their
technologies deployed,” said Vij.
While some say that “companies need
to take an active responsibility for their employees’ lives and that
corporations have social responsibilities even when meeting those
responsibilities may cost money” (Leslie Stebbins, the author of “Work
and Family in America,” 2001), this is an idea given more lip service
than commitment by CEOs. When the economy is down and the company starts
struggling, the only corporate “family” most recognize tend to be
investors, shareholders and major players on Wall Street.
Employees, too often, become shirt-tail relatives who never get invited to Thanksgiving dinner.
is not to suggest that Vij is not sincere in his fealty to the real
people in his corporate family who depend on MIPS to make a living.
was visibly exuberant when this reporter met him last week at Nasdaq.
He seemed genuinely happy that he was able to invite his executive team
and each executive’s spouse (and their kids in some cases) to the
opening bell ceremony in the morning. “I am glad we did it,” said Vij,
“because they (families) are the ones who sacrifice.”
But if and when
the going gets tough and MIPS starts feeling pressure from the
financial community – which never saw a layoff or an outsourcing move it
did not love – it will be interesting to see how tenaciously Vij clings
to his altruism.
The Wall Street is a finicky creature. You can’t
win Wall Street’s love forever, either. The case in point is Mobley’s
latest note, downgrading MIPS to hold. There was nothing in Mobley’s
analysis about MIPS’ soul.
But Vij’s idealism has been a faint theme
in the business world since Dickens. If you nurture your company’s
“soul,” you may be able to keep your employees’ faith – for much longer
than the typical soulless corporation, which may reap benefits far
Does your company have a soul?