Qualcomm Appoints New Chief Technology Officer

March 30, 2017
James Thompson, the executive vice president of engineering at Qualcomm, is taking on the added role of chief technology officer.

James Thompson, Qualcomm's executive vice president of engineering, is taking on the added role of chief technology officer, overseeing the technological direction of the world’s largest maker of phone chips.

The promotion thrusts Mr. Thompson into a more public role at Qualcomm, where he has overseen engineering since 2004. He already has oversight into the development of digital, analog, and radio frequency parts, as well as wireless standards, computer hardware, and product integration.

As chief technology officer, Mr. Thompson will be responsible for laying out Qualcomm’s technology roadmap and directing research in all business areas, including wireless chipsets. He takes over for Matthew Grob, who has served as C.T.O. since 2011. Mr. Grob has been promoted to executive vice president of technology.

The executive changes are relatively slight, but they coincide with bigger shifts in Qualcomm’s business. Last year, it signed a $47 billion deal to acquire NXP Semiconductors, whose microcontrollers and sensors will thrust Qualcomm into markets like automobiles and factory robots. It has also invested heavily in tweaking its smartphone chips for servers.

It's not clear how the acquisition will ripple through Qualcomm’s executive ranks. The fabless chip maker is inheriting 14 factories from NXP in the United States, Asia, and Europe. Steve Mollenkopf, Qualcomm’s chief executive, said that NXP's management will keep on running the foundries, but has not elaborated specific plans.

The company is changing in other ways, too. Qualcomm’s shift toward embedded devices is forcing it to rethink its business of signing licensing deals with smartphone makers, which has led to a slew of lawsuits around the globe. It has already started working with distributors to sell chips for powering drones and embedded devices.

The strategy changes are likely the most significant since Mr. Thompson joined Qualcomm in 1992, working on an early prototype of a 3G wireless base station. Two years later, he started working on the Globalstar satellite communications system. In 2001, he began overseeing hardware and systems engineering at Qualcomm.

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