Apple hires Samsung, AMD chip veteran

Apple's hiring of 16-year AMD chip veteran could allow the Cupertino tech giant to shift A-series processor production away from Samsung. But the move could also have implications for Intel, which supplies CPUs for Macs.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Apple's latest hiring brings almost two decades of processor design expertise to the iPhone and iPad maker.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Cupertino technology giant has hired Jim Mergard, a 16 -year veteran at AMD who rose to the heights of vice-president and chief engineer. While at AMD, Mergard was responsible for the development of the low-power "Brazos" mobile APU.

Last June, Mergard left AMD to join Samsung as chief system architect, where he stayed for 16 months. Now, Mergard is off to Apple.

While there's no love lost between Apple and Samsung in the courtroom, Apple is currently reliant on Samsung to manufacture the A5 and A6 processors used in the manufacture of millions of iPhones, iPads and iPod touch devices. But while the actual silicon manufacturing process is carried by Samsung, the design work is carried out by Apple.

Back in 2008, Apple acquired processor design company PA Semi, a move that allowed the company to bring its chip design work in-house. This allowed the company to design the A-series processors used in iPhones and iPads.

Apple's latest A6 processor is the company's most sophisticated design yet. A teardown of the chip carried out for iFixit by Chipworks revealed a complex design, suggesting that the ARM core blocks had been laid out manually as opposed to using a computer in order to maximize performance.


According to iFixit's chief information architect Miroslav Djuric, the ARM cores inside the A6 "might be the only manual layout in a chip to hit the market in several years".

As more chip expertise enters Apple, the company's reliance on Samsung diminishes, and this could allow the company to shift production to another firm, such as GlobalFoundries or TSMC.

Let's not forget that Apple not only requires processors of iPhones and iPads but also its range of Mac computers. Patrick Moorhead, a former AMD executive who now leads the research firm Moor Insights & Strategy, said Mergard could help Apple break free of Intel.

"[Mergard] would be very capable of pulling together internal and external resources to do a PC processor for Apple," said Moorhead.

Could Intel silicon found inside Macs soon be replaced with Apple designed processors?

Image source: iFixit/Chipworks.

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