Brian Halla: Poised To Pump Out Info Appliances

Brian Halla has been a whirlwind at National Semiconductor. Since becoming CEO in May, 1996, he has repositioned the $2.5 billion chipmaker to become a key supplier of chips for "information appliances" such as handheld PCs.

On July 25, Halla worked through his 51st birthday to put the finishing touches on the one missing element in his plan: an Intel-compatible microprocessor. Three days later, he sewed up a $550 million deal to buy Intel cloner Cyrix of Richardson, Tex. "I couldn't think of a better present," says Halla.

The Cyrix buy puts National in pole position in the race against Intel, SGS-Thomson, and others to shrink the parts of a PC onto a single chip. Cyrix already supplies Compaq Computer with the chip for a $799 PC. Now, Halla must meld Cyrix' processors with National's low-power circuits and video chips to make the plan work. "We have all the pieces to put together a complete PC system on a chip," boasts Halla. He promises that the first products will be available by next May.

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