Marvell's superwoman reveals master plan

For a company that started out as a two man, one woman show back in 1995, the changes little Santa Clara-based Marvell Semiconductor have gone through to become a leading billion dollar firm are nothing short of marvelous – and a meeting with Weili Dai, Co-founder, vice president and general manager of the firms consumer and computing business unit, does much to explain the amazing success.

TechEye managed to catch up with the trendy lady of tech at Marvell’s booth at MWC in Barcelona, where she seemed quite happy to muck in with her staff, showing people around the plentiful plethora of demos.

But although dressed impeccably in designer, with a specially customised Blackberry phone to match, Dai is certainly no marketing dolly. Armed with a degree in software engineering from Berkeley, California, she comes across not only as passionate about her company, but highly focused too.

“Marvell is a modest, humble company,” Dai told us referring to the now $2.95 billion company with more than 5,000 employees worldwide, adding “we’re focused on offering our technology to our customers and see ourselves as a one-stop-shop.”

One-stop-shop certainly seems like an accurate description for a firm which seems to be supplying the innards of everything from Blackberrys to digital picture frames to Kindles these days.

But it’s all part of Marvell’s “consumer mobile vision,” Dai explains, taking a leaf out of Intel’s book and pushing “Marvell inside” as a strategy, reaching out to consumers like never before.

“We have the actual product to show,” Dai told TechEye confidently, “seeing is believing and we’re going to be a key player in the semiconductor industry.”

The big name customers speak for themselves; Cisco, Sony, Microsoft and RIM to name but a few.

Indeed, Dai, who co-founded the company with her husband Sehat Sutardja and his brother Pantas, reckons Marvell could become well known for being a “total solution silicon provider,” – hardly a small ambition for a family business.

“Marvell has really come full circle,” Dai muMarvell and RIMsed, telling TechEye how the firm had gone from wireless LAN to networking, storage to processors and now back into the wireless industry again.

For Dai, it’s all about “being able to design everything to a very small form factor, low power, low cost and high performance.” This also ties into Marvell’s new long strategy which Dai claims is to “make things more affordable.” Perhaps even the Blackberry phone her firm’s technology powers.

“Blackberry is my passion,” Dai enthused, showing off her custom red Ferrari Bold. Tech Eye also discovered that RIM is so enamored with the little chip firm, it has already decided to use Marvell for its future generation of Blackberrys too, a lucrative contract no doubt.

Hardware, however, is not the be all and end all of Marvell’s super powers. The firm is investing heavily in software development lately too.

“Software is very important for time to market,” Dai affirmed, noting that Marvell’s developers built the basics of all the software before handing it over to partners to finish or polish with their own touch.

Three things stand out for Dai as having optimum importance in her firm’s products, though; video capability, gigahertz class offerings and the ability to support high end 3D graphics. All of which Marvell’s Armada series does admirably.

The Armada 600 for instance, a high end applications processor for use in netbooks, clamshells, smartphones and tablets, which boasts full flash and can push different content onto no less than five monitors. Or the Armada 500 for low cost PCs, which nonetheless boasts full 1080p, 2GB Ram, 1Ghz processor , video decoding capabilities and accelerated graphics. Or even the Armada 100 for digital photo frames and GPS systems, which runs Flash 3.1 and plays videos and pictures seamlessly.

“We drive for mass market adoption,” Dai told us proudly, adding that it had been important to Marvell to create “scalable platforms that can address any screen.”

Dai went on to say Marvell’s execution was flawless, mainly thanks to the dedication of its staff. “It’s a passion. I’m proud that our people, our customers, and our investors are all succeeding with us.”

“We want every consumer to have thinner, lighter, more efficient technology, always,” she said, concluding that her firm would continue to focus hard on R&D and raise the technology bar. “We are 100 percent committed to our customers.”

And we marvelled indeed.