Apple is building a moat (of semiconductors)

Apple is collecting chip gurus. The big question is why.

Apple is collecting chip gurus. The big question is why. 

The Wall Street Journal delivers a nice roundup of Apple's recent hires: Raja Koduri, former CTO of AMD's graphics group, and Bob Drebin, another AMD alum. And let's not forget former IBMer Mark Papermaster. Papermaster, who leads Apple's iPhone and iPod unit now, was the subject of a non-compete tug-of-war. Papermaster is a microchip expert---not that he'd ever pass Drebin or Kodui in the hall to talk shop or anything crazy like that. 

Toss in Apple's acquisition of P.A. Semi and the company is looking downright chipper. 

The Journal writes:

Besides a desire to beat rivals to market with new features, Apple's shift is also an effort to share fewer details about its technology plans with external chip suppliers, say people familiar with the moves.

In other words, Apple is building a moat around its iPhone and iPod businesses. Apple can expand into chips, be extremely focused and provide a leapfrog advance. New chip capabilities make their way into Apple products (rest assured it won't share) and the company gets to play defense. 

Mobile advances have a way of winding up in every mobile device eventually. If Apple's chips can integrate with its software to deliver distinguishing results it can distance itself from the pack. 

It's unclear whether Apple's chip fetish will work, but on paper the idea makes a lot of sense.