As a child in Piedras Negras, Mexico, Hector Ruiz wanted to be an auto mechanic. As president, chief executive, and chairman of Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD ), Ruiz has become Mr. Fix-it. When he took over financially strapped AMD in April, 2002, from the flamboyant Jerry Sanders, few people knew who he was, despite his long tenure at Motorola Inc (MOT ).
Nevertheless, the soft-spoken executive has put AMD in the black for the first time since 2000. He's giving larger competitor Intel Corp. (INTC ) fits with AMD's hot-selling Opteron server and Athlon 64 desktop chips, and he has set the agenda for next-generation PC designs. "We're giving customers real choice," Ruiz says. It's no wonder AMD's shares rose 50% last year through late December.
Now, Ruiz, who has a PhD in quantum electronics, is loading his sling for more shots at Goliath Intel. After grabbing 10% of the mainstream server chip market, Ruiz is pushing company engineers to launch multiple-core chips, which shrink several processors into the space of one, by the middle of 2005. Getting the superefficient, low-heat chips out on time would put AMD at least six months ahead of competing Intel offerings. Never one to think small, Ruiz has also set a goal to outfit 50% of the world with sub-$200 PCs by 2015.
Ruiz could go a long way toward fulfilling AMD's promising outlook by cinching another big deal he has labored over: Getting his Texas neighbor, Dell (DELL ), to pick up AMD products after years of being an all-Intel shop. If Ruiz manages that, he could put AMD in the chips for a long time to come.