Pentium designer plans Indian wireless IC, phone powerhouse

It's that Dham again...

Vinod Dham, a strangely pivotal figure in the development of Intel and AMD, has done pretty well for himself, and is now bouncing back with what looks to us like the modelstly ambitious scheme of turning India into a wireless, semiconductor and mobile phone powerhouse. Earlier this week Dham set up his first Indian company, Insilica, with backing from his own and Tushar Dave's NewPath Ventures.

Insilica is intended to kick off by designing mobile phone chipsets, and then to move swiftly on into LCDs, batteries, and ultimately full handsets. Ambitious? But Dham may have something here. India produces many intensely clever semiconductor designers, and aside from the ones who head over to Silicon Valley and make a bundle, they're pretty cheap to hire. India also has great potential as a low cost manufacturing centre, and has a potentially vast domestic market.

Vinod's pennies (NewPath is a $50 million fund) may not look like much compared to the money Microsoft said it's putting into India this week, but they seem more significant to us, because they're directed, and because they're about the right platform.

And that 'strangely pivotal' role of his? Dham led the original Pentium design team at Intel, then switched over to NexGen, one of the rash of cloners that subsequently showed up. AMD bought NexGen in 1995, as part of the recovery plan that led to its current (recent?) pseudo-renaissance. But butterfingers AMD boss Jerry Sanders later let Dham slip through his fingers. We thought at the time maybe they'd screwed it up again, and who knows, maybe they did. Time will tell.

Dham then went to Silicon Spice as CEO, which was sold to Broadcom for $1.2 billion. His partner in NewPath, Tushar Dave, also sold his company Armedia (a fabless multimedia IC supplier with bases in India and California) to Broadcom, in 1999. So they both know where the money used to be, anyway. ®

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