With Windows 10 launching today worldwide, I talked with Roy Taylor about Windows 10 and trends.
Roy Taylor is Corporate Vice President and Head of Alliances at AMD. Prior to joining AMD, Taylor was Chief Sales Officer of Rightware, a Finland-based software start-up. Taylor spent a decade at NVIDIA, starting as a founder in Europe and going on to hold a number of leadership roles including Vice President Telco Relations, Vice President Content Relations and CTO for PCGA (PC Gaming Alliance), Vice President for GPU Sales and Vice President of EMEA Sales. An avid gamer and IT enthusiast, Taylor started his career in the component distribution business and was a founder of Addtron, a firm representing sales and marketing for semiconductor leaders such as IBM Microelectronics, NEC Electronics, Cyrix, and others in Europe. Taylor holds a bachelor’s degree in business studies from Maidstone College, Kent, United Kingdom. Originally from England, Taylor now lives in Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA.
Here is the chat.
Q: Roy, your outstanding contributions in innovation and executive leadership have significant global impact. Thank you for sharing your considerable expertise, deep accumulated insights and wisdom with our audience.
A: “Thank you, that’s kind. A pleasure to be able to help where I can.”
Q: Congratulations on receiving the NPA Awards for Professionalism Career Achievement Award. This is a recognition of your lifetime of global significant global contributions.
A: “Thank you again, I am honoured to be recognized this way. It means a great deal.”
Q: Please highlight some milestones in your professional career and useful lessons to the audience?
A: “My first milestone was to join a small team in a startup in 1986. At the time I was broke but needed $10,000 seed capital to raise finance. This was a large sum then and I already had debts. I decided to ‘double down’ and went to the bank manager. He believed my pitch, we raised the money and went on to create a business with $200M+ in revenues. The lesson I learned was to not be afraid to think big.
The second milestone was to win the contract to represent IBM Microelectronics in Europe. At the time IBM was in some difficulty and shedding jobs. It hardly seemed possible they would hire an outside firm to help them sell. But they did and despite all the odds we won the deal. The lesson I took away was that passion and attitude will beat experience and ‘common wisdom’ every time.
My third milestone was establishing NVIDIA in Europe. In 2000 there were multiple graphics companies and NVIDIA was by no means in the lead. I took a risk, sold my start up and started working out of my bedroom. Within 5 years the team had grown to over a 100 with sales of $300M+ and the rest as they say is history. The lesson from this success was that if you believe in something, an idea, a team, a vision, then go after it and never doubt the decision.”
Q: Can you extend the question to your personal life and useful lessons to the audience?
A: “Like every father, the biggest personal milestones are the births of your children. From each I learned to be humble and afraid and excited. Children are a roller coaster and I also learned to be patient!
Another big personal milestone was my divorce. It was painful as these things are, and also humbling. But it taught me that it is really true that as one door closes, another opens. Every dark day is only the precursor to a brighter tomorrow. So never be despondent. Finally it was an enormous milestone moving to America. At the time this was also a big change and not without risk. I already had a highly successful career in Europe. Why move? But I believe in always being unafraid to follow new adventures. That was 11 years ago and I am still here. If life creates opportunity for you, then take it.”
Q: Can you share goals for 2015 and 2016 in your current role?
A: “In my role as Corporate Vice President of Alliances at AMD I am responsible for all relationships at the company unrelated to sales. My goals tend to be focused for 1-5 years out. However in the near term the team is focused on supporting Microsoft with a perfect launch for Windows 10. Then on working with them for the planned update roadmap. This of course includes DX12, the 3D API and we are working with the games industry for that.
For 2016 we have some exciting work to be done on Zen, the core design of our new CPU range. These new CPU’s are exciting in themselves and eagerly awaited by millions of AMD fans. I cannot wait to see them launch.
At the same time we have ambitious plans to do more with HBM (High Bandwidth Memory), which we just launched with our new AMD Fury X GPU. The tech is really new and allows for massive amounts of memory bandwidth; we plan to do more with this.
We also have goals to partner with the WiFi manufacturers to do more to broaden the adoption of GHz WiFi, and we also want to do more with security. There are a lot of creative ideas for all of these we are exploring now.”
Q: What will you accomplish with Windows 10 and can you describe the value to the audience?
A: “We will accomplish a simpler, better and smoother Windows experience. First we will be supporting driver updates thru WU (Windows Update) so users won’t have to worry about making sure they have the latest drivers. This will mean that every AMD-Windows 10 user will always have the very best video, gaming, streaming, Skype, etc. experience. More people will enjoy more with less issues.
Second we will be continuing to support DX12 for both gaming and also VR. Right now VR is in developer kits but with the launching of consumer ready headsets it will reach a wider audience. AMD has a head start in VR with our LiquidVR software and our asynchronous compute hardware. We are working with Microsoft to ensure these are perfectly delivered in Windows 10.”
Q: What are your broader top predictions for the next five years?
A: “First, VR is going to be a huge success. It will mutate and change and take us to new places and deliver new experiences, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind it will be an enormous new industry. Second, AR (augmented reality) will also be successful but to a lesser extent as we have to learn to meld the real world with overlays. I feel the challenges here, legal, physiological and technical will be a little harder than with VR. Third, we are going to see drones enter every aspect of our lives, both good and bad. They are going to get larger, smaller, faster, more accurate and cheaper. Whether they become a nuisance that we learn to hate or a blessing we cannot live without is going to be interesting. Fourth, we are seeing the beginning of a ‘world without wires’: the new WWW. Wireless charging, combined with Gigabit wireless connectivity and seamless experiences for IoT means that cables are going to increasingly seem very old fashioned. Last, I believe that Windows 10 is going to teach us about seamlessness. The integration of voice interaction, maps, calendar management, travel, search, productivity and entertainment is going to delight us but also bind us. This isn’t getting much attention now but I believe it will be a big deal the next 5 years.”
Q: How can executives take a look at what you talked about and integrate it into their planning in some way?
A: “I think the key thing that executives need to do is to take some time to think. That sounds almost churlish or even slightly rude to some executives who are listening, but we are so unbelievably busy from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep, and there are so many demands on our time professionally and personally if we have wives or husbands or families that it can be very, very difficult to build and plan time for yourself to say, “I’m just going to take time, a morning or an afternoon or a day to do nothing other than think and read.” Yet without that downtime (it’s not really downtime at all because you are doing some great work very often), without that time to look up and to consider options and opportunities and to think through problems, then we are endlessly churning like the mouse on the wheel. My biggest piece of advice to any executive (or actually anyone at all), is to book some time for yourself. I know that’s how I do it. I book a meeting in my calendar, only there’s nobody there, it’s literally with myself. Myself and a pen and paper to think. The other thing I would add is to read. I am not aware of any highly successful executive or any highly successful person that I’ve met who is not also an avid reader. There are no shortcuts in life, except for one, and that is to read. Someone has most certainly gone through what you’ve gone through or is trying to do what you are trying to do and written about it. So I’m astonished when people tell me that they don’t have time to read or they don’t read.”
Q: You are an authority in media, please provide your top predictions.
A: “First, that we will see a new understanding that humans have a deep and abiding love of storytelling, and that movies and TV shows meet that experience but the medium is not the message. By which I mean that streaming is going to rise and rise and rise. The enormous success of Popcorn Time should have the attention of everyone in media. Second, that good reporting trumps the medium. The Economist has shown that excellence in journalism can still sell at the news stand. I predict that we will see a rise in high quality reporting that transcend gossip as news that we see so much of today, because quite simply it sells. Third, that cheap HD cameras with high bandwidth wireless connectivity will give us access to more content, more of the time, in real time. Media companies will have low cost access to a new volume of content that they hardly seem prepared for. It is coming. Fourth, that users as reviewers with aggregated viewpoints will bring a new kind of product analysis. Instead of sampling ‘personalities’ with new products for review, companies will start to sample widely to selected end users and then aggregate the reviews. Fifth and last, that it will become increasingly difficult for companies to hide product deficiencies in any way, shape or form and this is a very good thing.”
Q: How can executives act on your predictions?
A: “By paying attention. Most executives I meet are so busy hitting their numbers and making sure of the current quarter that oftentimes the chances for some horizon thinking and planning are missed. It is difficult when we are all so starved of time to remember the importance of planning and taking time to think, but the best companies do just that.”
Q: Can you speak about the elements of professionalism supported by the NPA such as demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials?
A: “These elements should form the core of any career, regardless of its discipline. Without question, every successful C level executive I know reads extensively and makes this part of their development plan. Taking time to keep learning is essential. Without ethics no one will trust you, and to move quickly trust is utterly key. So ethics is mandatory. Responsibility and accountability will ensure that you do not make mistakes and stay grounded, and finally, no successful executive will make it long unless he is committed to quality. So I applaud the NPA for recognizing these.”
Q: From your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share up to three stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
A: “I was once late getting to Dusseldorf airport and could not get a customer off the phone. I wanted to get the next immediate flight to London. The ticket lady was angry with me for being rude staying on the phone (quite rightly), and so when I asked for the next flight I didn’t notice which airport. I was on the phone all the way until take off. Finally when I landed I realized I was in Gatwick when I needed to be in Heathrow. I think she found that highly amusing!
An unexpected thing was going to Japan for the first time. The toilets are famously complex, luxurious affairs. But the instructions are not in English and I could not find a flush symbol for the life of me. All the electronics is bypassed for the flush and is operated by a metal plunger, but no one tells you and I had to call a friend to ask for help.
Final travel story. I am not keen on turbulence and once experienced a very bad flight with luggage falling out of the cabins and a number of dips, bumps and sideways lurches. As we were leaving after finally landing the lady in front of me asked “Excuse me, did we land or were we shot down?” It still makes me smile to remember that.”
Q: You choose up to three topic areas. What do you see as the challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
A: “AI. Like others I am concerned that unless we proceed very carefully we might be acting dangerously with regard to advances in AI. Mathematically we can draw a line to what it would take to cause The Singularity. We need to put some thought into a world where just because we can doesn’t mean that we should.
VR. As excited as I am about VR it occurs to me that we may end up producing an experience so good that it becomes more appealing than real life. That bothers me a great deal. Freedom to choose is a basic tenet of our civilization but what if the choice we make threatens it?
I notice that I do not have solutions to these. The issues are large and complex. I know only that they need to be discussed and tackled; we need to establish the right forum for that to happen.”
Q: If you were conducting this interview, what up to 3 questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
“Q1: How do you find time to execute what you have to do whilst staying current on what you need to look out for? A1: I make extensive use of social media, especially twitter where I use TweetDeck to manage the subjects and topics I am most interested in. I also read extensively on airplanes and before going to sleep.
Q2: How do you cope with sometimes very difficult people? A2: I remember that there are very, very few genuinely bad people. Most often someone who appears to be difficult is either threatened, hurt, doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand us. The secret is to always make the assumption that everyone you meet is a good person, you just have to ascertain why they appear to be difficult and reach out to them to solve that, if you can.
Q3: How do you prefer to dress for work?A3: Comfortably. We all have such busy lives and so much stress working in constrained time frames that I prefer to be relaxed as much as possible. That said, there are times when a suit reflects the seriousness of the occasion and your respect for it. If you see me in a suit it is because the occasion I feel warrants it. Otherwise I am in a shirt and jeans.”