Cristiano Amon, president and CEO of Qualcomm, explains how the technology giant is ready for a world in which everything and everyone are connected digitally 100% of the time.
By Anthony Moran
Before he took over the role of CEO of Qualcomm from Steve Mollenkopf in June 2021, Cristiano Amon served as president of the company for three years. He believes one of his greatest achievements during that period was unifying Qualcomm’s regional operations under the umbrella of One Qualcomm—a process that ensured that the tech giant acted as a global player. “I think any company that is going to be a leader in its space, and especially in tech, is going to be a global company, and as a result, you have to operate with a global mindset,” Amon told CEO Magazine North America in an exclusive interview.
That same sense of ambition now drives Cristiano Amon’s broader mindset as Qualcomm prepares to embrace a world in which everything and everyone are connected digitally 100% of the time. “When we look at the overall trends in our industry, everything is moving towards the cloud,” he explained. “You see the growth reflected in the valuation of certain companies. You see 5G technology, which is designed to connect not only people but also billions of devices around the globe. I look at those two trends and I feel privileged to be the CEO of Qualcomm at a time when we probably have one of the greatest opportunities in the company’s history.”
Qualcomm is an American multinational corporation headquartered in San Diego, California, which was established in 1985 by Irwin M. Jacobs and six other co-founders. Its early research into CDMA wireless cell phone technology saw the adoption of the 2G standard in the industry with the company’s CDMA patents incorporated. Over the years, Qualcomm has expanded to create semiconductors, software, and services related to wireless and beyond in addition to owning patents critical to 3G, 4G and now the 5G communication standards. In 2021, the company enjoyed revenue of more than $33.6 billion globally.
Who is Cristiano Amon?
Cristiano Amon is President and CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated, and also serves on the Company’s board of directors. Amon assumed the role of Qualcomm CEO on June 30, 2021. Before assuming his current role, Amon served as president of QCT. Prior to that, he held several technical and business leadership positions, including overall responsibility for Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platforms. Cristiano joined Qualcomm in 1995 as an engineer.
Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm CEO, on a Digitally Connected Future
While Qualcomm is best known for its work in the mobile industry, Cristiano Amon explained how 5G and AI are currently ushering in a new era for both the company and the tech industry as a whole. The Qualcomm CEO believes that an era of widespread digital transformation will impact all industries and in turn the broader economy.
“When I look at the role we can play in this transformation, I think Qualcomm is probably better positioned than any other company to make it a reality,” Amon said. “It’s not difficult to understand that more and more aspects of our lives are going to be connected through the cloud. Growth in the cloud is currently 35% year over year. In years to come, everyone and everything will be connected intelligently.”
“You need a company on the other side of that to connect the devices that are sending data to the cloud,” he elaborated. “You need a company that has the ability to connect everything through every possible wireless technology. In recent years, Qualcomm has been a market leader in terms of the assets that are needed to make that vision a reality.”
A Look into Qualcomm’s One Technology Roadmap
Since being appointed as CEO of Qualcomm, Cristiano Amon has been highlighting the unique nature of the company’s technology roadmap. With a technology portfolio that is rooted in mobile, he believes the company has the relevant technologies for the future of digital transformation across any number of industries from cell phones and computers to the industrial and consumer IoT sectors. “For example, the best camera in the world right now is the one you carry around on your smartphone,” he said. “From there, you are creating the computation that will eventually see smartphones evolve into virtual and augmented reality devices.”
“For example, in the past, the company never got the recognition we deserved for our involvement in AI,” The Qualcomm CEO, elaborated. “Artificial Intelligence will develop side by side with 5G because as you connect everything to the cloud, the devices at the edge utilize real-time contextual information. For many years, we’ve been talking about mixed reality—virtual and augmented reality—and people just listen. But the technology is already here to merge physical and digital spaces, and we have the opportunity to create significant growth through that.”
“As a result, we’ve created multiple end markets for Qualcomm moving forward. We went from being a company that had a $15 billion addressable market in products and licensing to around $100 billion today, and we believe that market is going to grow to $700 billion over the next decade. The key drivers of that are things like the 4.0 Industrial Revolution, IoT, the transformation of computing platforms with the growth of VR and AR, and the automotive industry as the car becomes a whole new platform for innovation.”
Qualcomm’s Cristiano Amon on Overcoming Crises
As a company that has been around for over 35 years, Qualcomm has confronted and overcome a number of challenges, the most recent being the semiconductor chip shortage as a result of supply chain disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. As the CEO of Qualcomm, Amon described how the company has always been ready to tackle such crises and come out stronger on the other side.
“A few months ago, there were people who said we needed to make broader acquisitions, so we made the most successful acquisition we could have possibly made, which was to buy back our stock.” In this statement, the Qualcomm CEO was referencing the company’s move to obtain a $10 billion stock repurchase authorization in October 2021. “Because we were confident about our growth projections, we were willing to bet on our future volumes to secure our supply, and now we’re doing better than many of our competitors.”
RESISTING SIMPLE DEFINITIONS
Cristiano Amon views Qualcomm in 2022 as a company that can no longer be defined by a single end market or customer. While he insists that mobile will continue to be a key business, he stressed that diversification is now the key to growth moving forward, and the company can back it up with hard figures: five consecutive quarters of 100% year over year growth.
“Those are startup-like metrics,” Amon emphasized. “They demonstrate that there really is demand for Qualcomm technologies across a number of industries. Ultimately, if you believe in the growth of the cloud, you believe in the Qualcomm strategy. I believe that in the future, as everything gets connected, we will become recognized as one of the largest providers of 5G and AI capabilities.
“The other thing about us is that we have an incredible culture of collaboration here. If I had to pick one thing to leave behind as my legacy, it would be that. Breaking down silos and having everyone work as one team. It’s really about having our business units, the supply chain team, and our engineers working together to find solutions to our problems. I’m very fortunate to be the CEO of this company at this point in time.”