Evangelist seeks bigger bite for Bluetooth
Evangelist seeks bigger bite for Bluetooth
By Junko Yoshida, EE Times
April 11, 2002 (2:01 p.m. EST)
Maria Khorsand could be just what Bluetooth needs. When Khorsand, the president of Ericsson Technology Licensing (Lund, Sweden), looks you in the eye and talks about her "dedication to Bluetooth" and "commitment to drive it to the mass market," it's clear that she means every word. "There is no doubt in my mind," Khorsand avows, "that Bluetooth is the winner in the industry."
Born in Iran and educated in the United States, Khorsand has assumed the role of Ericsson's Bluetooth evangelist the kind of individual every new technology needs, someone with unwavering faith and vision who is willing to devote full attention to pushing a technology into volume products.
Khorsand's biggest responsibility as the president of Ericsson Technology Licensing, a Bluetooth intellectual-property (IP) core licensing company spun out of L.M. Ericsson in December 2000, is, perhaps, to keep Bluetooth visible and its buzz very much alive on the market, while signing up more semiconductor companies as customers and pushing efforts to develop more integrated Bluetooth solutions.
"One of the challenges of Bluetooth is that it is very easy to explain and people will get it right away," said Khorsand, who has spent most of her professional life as an engineer in the United States and in Sweden, initially in the data communications field. "But it is not so easy to build it, especially for low-cost, low-power, volume consumer products."
Easing the design of Bluetooth silicon and moving this short-range, wireless networking technology into mass-market products like laptops and cell phones is the mission of Ericsson Technology Licensing's roughly 200 employees, 70 percent of whom are engineers including the chief architect who invented Bluetooth.
Asked what she believes qualified her to head the operation, Khorsand said, "Nobody told me in so many words, but my eagerness to reach results and my hunger for new challenges are well-know n within my company."
The Swedish communications giant originated Bluetooth technology in the mid-1990s and, in a strategic move, decided to hand Bluetooth over to an independent Special Interest Group in hopes of winning broader industry adoption. Now, the technology might be at just the stage where it needs the full-time dedication of a believer like Khorsand, who worked for companies such as Union Oil of California, Burroughs and Unisys before moving to Ericsson in the late 1980s. The technology is already proven and specified, with some 200 Bluetooth products on the market. But it has not had the meteoric rise backers at first expected.
When first introduced, the Bluetooth concept generated high hopes among PC giants like Intel, IBM and Toshiba; mobile communication companies like Nokia and Ericsson; and consumer electronics manufacturers such as Sony. In the last two years, Bluetooth has triggered huge hype in the media, which initially billed it as a solution to all wireless problems in the personal-area network. Though the industry is still eager to implement Bluetooth in a variety of consumer and computer products, those who anticipated a "hockey stick" market-penetration curve may be disappointed, Khorsand acknowledged.
To enable Bluetooth to "really hit the market with volume," she said, "takes a lot of attention, and it's been a little more difficult than we had originally thought." That's why Ericsson Technology Licensing has set customer success as its chief goal. "We need to make sure that we provide them [in a timely fashion] with well-proven and efficient Bluetooth solutions," Khorsand said.
Under its business model, Ericsson Technology Licensing makes money by selling IP licenses to chip companies, and also receives royalties from Bluetooth devices those customers sell. "The more our customers sell, the more we make," Khorsand said.
When adopting Bluetooth wireless technology, manufacturers have several choices, accord ing to Khorsand. They can invest significant time and resources in complex chip development; purchase premade chips that are not easily modified; or opt for reusable IP blocks and implement a solution that can be integrated into an existing device system. Ericsson Technology Licensing makes the last of these options possible by offering a variety of Bluetooth IP for baseband solutions, the radio core and software. Khorsand called it "a one-stop shop for licensing a whole Bluetooth solution."
The company also provides training and support for qualification services, and sells consulting services to help its customers customize their Bluetooth devices. Those publicly known to be using Ericsson Technology Licensing's IP include Agere Systems, Arima, Ericsson Microelectronics, Intel, Patria, Philips Semiconductors, Samsung and STMicroelectronics. "We've got all the major semiconductor companies lined up as our licensees," said Khorsand.
Picking up new customers and establishing trusted partnersh ips with them takes not only good, solid products but also a great deal of patience, honesty and enthusiasm for the technology. As Bluetooth evangelist, Khorsand spends much of her work life globetrotting; indeed, traveling on customer visits sometimes consumes more than 50 percent of her time per month. But global exposure, with an opportunity to learn something new both culturally and professionally, is just what Khorsand asked for when she started working for Ericsson.
Her eagerness to face challenges and to explore new cultures has been ingrained since Khorsand's mother sent her to high school in the United States when Khorsand was only 16 years old. "My mother did set up everything" in terms of where Khorsand would live and what school she would attend. "The only problem, though, is that she didn't realize how tough it would have been on kids" to find themselves in a strange country where they barely spoke the language. Khorsand said it took her six to eight months to start feeling comfortable speaking English. "For the first six months, I really worked hard at it. I don't remember having much of a good night's sleep in those days."
Khorsand said it is an exaggeration to think that women in Iran don't have careers. "In fact, my mother owned her own business, and I have an aunt who headed up managing a hospital [in Iran]," she said.
In the late 1970s, when Khorsand was ready for college, her elder sister was already in the United States studying computer science. After first enrolling in psychology "I was interested in people and I wanted to become a psychiatrist" Khorsand followed her lead. Computer science was making "explosive" progress at the time, she said. "I found it very intriguing," and switched majors.
According to Khorsand, her mother's intention was that she and her siblings stay in the United States only for "a few years to study." But Khorsand has not returned to her homeland since 1975, and her two sisters also live abroad, one in Los Angeles, the other in Tokyo. Only her brother recently returned to Iran.
Khorsand, who met her Swedish husband while studying computer science at California State, in Fullerton, moved with him to Sweden in the late '80s, originally as a Unisys employee. The decision to move wasn't difficult, she said; indeed, Khorsand reports that she was eager to take on the challenge of "learning a different culture and getting accepted by people." She said, "I wanted to make it, and I wanted to master it [the art of living] in Sweden" just as she had done in the United States.
Becoming a company president in a high-tech industry largely dominated by male engineers does not faze her. "I know other female managers in Ericsson and I also have friends who are female presidents," she said. "In all honesty, I really don't think about it." Khorsand acknowledged that there have been times when she was the only woman present among hundreds of men at large technology conferences. "Yes, that happens. But do I feel uncomfortable about it? No, I don't think so," she said.
Khorsand said she works hard to nourish her relationships with her husband and 11-year-old daughter. "They are enormously important to me and I dedicate my weekends to being with them." But Bluetooth owns her weekdays. "What I live for today is to make this company succeed," she concluded.
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