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Before Broadcom, he led team that built Windows

March 08, 2009|Alex Pham

The gig: President and chief executive of Broadcom Corp., the Irvine semiconductor company that supplied more than a billion chips last year for cellphones, set-top boxes, televisions, computers and the Nintendo Wii. Broadcom made $215 million in profit last year on nearly $4.7 billion in revenue.

Background: McGregor, 52, was born in St. Louis and moved to California in 1974.

Education: Graduated from Stanford University in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and master's degree in computer science and computer engineering.

The motive: Studied psychology because he was interested in the way people interacted with machines and how artificial intelligence could help computers anticipate people's needs. He also wanted to

find ways to make sophisticated technology easier for people to use.

First job: Dishwasher at a restaurant in college. He then snagged a research position at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, which pioneered the development of graphical displays, personal computers, laser printers and the computer mouse.

Claim to fame: His work on user interfaces at Xerox PARC led him to a job with Microsoft Corp. in 1983 heading the team of engineers that built the first Windows. "The goal was to create a graphical user interface using pictures and objects rather than just typing in words or numbers into computers." McGregor said. "At the time, we saw the computer as something that was interesting for hobbyists and businesses, but not something that every person in the country would own."

Applying psychology to technology: Though the infamous Blue Screen of Death indicating computer failure was introduced to Windows after he left Microsoft in 1985, McGregor believes that bug-free software is about as real as unicorns.

When computers crash, most people just mutter an expletive and reboot. When cellphones drop calls, they grumble and redial.

What if other consumer electronics, which are becoming increasingly computerized, start failing like that?

"Will people become more tolerant of their TVs crashing, or will it remain one of those things that will just have to work?" McGregor said. "TVs are becoming more complex, and making perfect software becomes a challenge. But if people just return things to the store after they crash, that's a huge impetus for manufacturers to get it right."

How he blows off steam: McGregor likes to play Wii Sports with his family. That's just as well because Broadcom provides the technology that lets the motion-sensitive Wii remote communicate wirelessly with the console.


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