AMD hires away Apple’s director of graphics architecture

Raja Koduri (headshot 002)

Graphics giant Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has wooed another semiconductor expert away from Apple. Raja Koduri, who had previously worked at AMD before Apple poached him in April 2009, specializes in graphics technology and is understood to have helped with Apple’s own chip-design efforts a great deal.

At AMD, Koduri will reportedly lead engineering efforts in visual computing, reporting to the company’s Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster, another Apple hire who left the iPhone maker over cultural incompatibility and after falling out of favor with late co-founder Steve Jobs…

According to The Wall Street Journal:

AMD, though originally known almost entirely for microprocessors, became a big player in graphics through its purchase of ATI Technologies. Besides selling the two kinds of products separately, AMD has fused the two together for a variety of product it calls APUs, for accelerated processing units.

It hasn’t been an easy business lately. Besides slow sales of PCs, which account for a large portion of graphics purchases, AMD faces a tough rival in Nvidia NVDA +0.24%. AMD, which reported financial results Thursday, disclosed that revenue in its graphics business declined 12% to $337 million in the first quarter.

Prior to joining Apple as Director of Graphics Architecture, Raja Kodur was AMD’s Chief Technology Office for Graphics. In March 2013, Makuta VFX, an Indian visual effects company, announced it appointed Koduri its Chief Technical Advisor.

Shortly after hiring Koduri in April 2009, Apple also hired another AMD processor star, Bob Drebin. Those high-profile hires along with Apple’s 2008 acquisition of the fabless chip maker PA Semi helped advance the company’s own chip designs.


However, the exodus works both ways as Mark Papermaster and Raja Koduri now work for their old employer AMD. Back in August 2012, Apple’s lead of the mobile platform architecture group for the iPhone and iPad, Jim Keller, also joined AMD as chief architect of its microprocessor cores.

Keller was a former PA Semi employee where he worked alongside Wayne Meretsky, another engineer who left for AMD post-Apple acquisition.

AMD used to compete with Intel in both speed and price, but lately has lost its mojo. These hirings indicate that AMD may now be looking to make greater strides into mobile, where most vendors rely on chips based on ARM’s blueprints.

Per Bloomberg:

AMD Chief Executive Officer Rory Read is remaking the company to develop new processor technology, part of an effort to differentiate its products from those of larger rival Intel Corp. and open up new markets outside of PCs.

CNET and AnandTech have more on the implications of AMD’s high-profile talent acquisition, including the following quote by Koduri:

I always had the dream of building a Pixar like company in India and I got an opportunity to engage with a group of people who have the same mission. AMD allowed me to stay engaged on this endeavor and that’s one of the reasons I chose AMD.

Apple’s semiconductor teams count more than a thousand engineers who design the engine that drives iDevices.

iPad mini keynote (Phil Schiller, A6x slide 001)

That unit merged last October with Apple’s wireless teams, forming a new Technologies unit headed by long-time Apple executive and hardware wizard Bob Mansfield.

Most recently, Apple lured CTO Kevin Lynch away from Adobe.

The executive landed a job as Apple’s VP of technology and is said to have been tasked with the company’s rumored iWatch project.