Brian Berkeley, senior vice president of engineering at Samsung Display.
Brian Berkeley isn't a typical "ex-Apple engineer establishing another wild startup in Silicon Valley" story. He works today as a senior vice president at Samsung. However, his journey has been just as wild, bumpy, and passionate as the experience of any startup founder.
Imagine an American engineer -- after a prosperous 20-year career at Apple, where he was responsible for putting color on to the Mac platform -- leaving the orchard, packing a bag, forsaking a home in upscale Saratoga, Calif., and hauling his whole family off to Korea, even though none of them speak the language. That's Brian Berkeley.
Now picture this reporter's surprise, sitting in a conference room in 2010 in Giheung, South Korea, and getting ready for a briefing on Samsung's OLED activities, when an ex-Apple engineer walked in and introduced himself as vice president of the OLED R&D center at Samsung Mobile Display Co.
By the time I met him that day, Berkeley had become -- according to an IHS technology analyst -- the closest thing to a "rock star" in the exclusive global circle of OLED experts. He had blended into the life and culture at Samsung. He spoke Korean after six years there. It was clear that he was a major driving force in Samsung Electronics' push for OLED.
Samsung's 55-inch curved OLED display
Berkeley had a passion for flat-panel display technologies well before he was recruited by Samsung. At Apple, he reportedly had regular arguments with Steve Jobs over flat panel screens (when every desktop computer was still using a CRT). Berkeley pulled for LCDs; Jobs was against the change.
While at Apple, Berkeley worked on products that included the very first Macintosh. He led hardware development for the first iMac computer, and he was responsible for all display development activity at Apple.
Looking back, he recently told EE Times, "Among other things, I gained good product sense, meaning an understanding of the things that make a product compelling. This process started with my involvement on the very first Macintosh development team way back in 1983."
Of course, well before joining Samsung, Berkeley was all too familiar with stressful work environments. "I learned how to develop products under challenging circumstances and developed a sense of urgency" at Apple.
When Berkeley moved to Korea in November 2003, Samsung had not emerged yet as a smartphone leader. (Nokia ruled the mobile world then.) Nevertheless "I could tell that Samsung was going to do well." He saw "lots of motivating factors to accept Samsung's offer, even though it was a big change from living and working in the United States."
Initially he helped Samsung develop advanced technologies for large screen LCD-TVs. He moved on to OLED technology development at Samsung Mobile Display (SMD) in January 2009. His responsibility was to defy a then-prevalent skepticism about the viability of large-screen OLED TVs by ensuring size and volume scaleup of OLED displays for large-screen applications.
Since Samsung began OLED mass production in late 2008, "we have significantly improved yields and line efficiency." Berkeley said during our meeting in May 2010. "Material development has been accelerated, backplane technology improved, and a number of advancements made in color patterning."
He also said, "Large-size OLED TVs are viable."
In January 2012, Berkeley returned to the United States to start up SMD's laboratory in San Jose. Until recently, he served as president of the Society for Information Display.
-- Junko Yoshida