Apple accelerating custom chip development

AMD Logo (white background, small)

Apple has seen a few high-profile departures of its silicon experts for graphics giant AMD. For example, Apple’s lead chip designer Jim Keller left the company last August to join AMD’s Mark Papermaster, who was briefly Apple’s VP of iPhone engineering.

Another example: Wayne Meretsky, who is known for his work on Macs and other Apple products, in January became AMD’s VP of Software Development. And perhaps most importantly, director of graphics architecture Raja Koduri in April left for AMD, where he had previously worked before Apple poached him in April 2009.

Now, Apple is striking back. According to a number of job listings and LinkedIn profiles, Apple this year picked up at least a dozen former AMD graphics engineers for Orlando Design Center, its rumored brand new shop for custom chip development. These hires indicate Apple’s accelerated custom chip development as the firm seeks to further distance itself from rivals, whose products mostly incorporate off-the-shelf chips…

MacRumors analyzed Apple’s job posts and LinkedIn profiles and has discovered that some of the hires include a graphics architect, hardware engineer and Site Managers to head GPU teams in both Orlando and its home base of Cupertino.

The new job listings ask for extensive experience in building and leading teams, including hiring, mentoring, and more. They also focus on intellectual property development as well. The listings in both Cupertino and Orlando are identical.

And in a likely sign that Apple could be starting hardware development in the Central Florida area, the company last month sought half a dozen engineers to develop and test custom processor and mobile graphics hardware (the new hires are in addition to those).

Among them: a GPU Drivers Engineer who will be validating and implementing features for new GPUs and “bringing-up iOS with GPU Driver on pre-silicon platforms”.

Apple in all iOS devices to date has incorporated custom chips.

iPhone 5 keynote (A6 slide 001)

Up until the iPhone 4, these designs had been only customized in terms of fabbing technology. The iPad’s debut in the summer of 2010 has brought out Apple’s first in-house system-on-a-chip, the A4 package.

And the iPhone 5, which debuted in September 2012, marked Apple’s first in-house customized CPU core with the A6 chip.

Apple’s semiconductor and wireless teams are lead by SVP Bob Mansfield who heads Technologies group, created as part of Tim Cook’s October 2012 management shakeup.