​Google nabs key Apple iPhone chip designer for future Pixel phones

Google's latest hire validates Apple's early focus on hardware for the phone of the future.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The hire could set Google's Pixel smartphone on a path to compete more effectively with the iPhone in coming years.

Image: Josh Miller/CNET

Google has plucked a lead engineer behind Apple's mobile chips to help design processors for its Pixel phones.

Variety reports that Google recently hired Manu Galati, an engineer who's worked on Apple's chips for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV for the past eight years, or the entire time Apple has been designing its own mobile chips.

Galati's LinkedIn profile lists him as lead system-on-chip (SoC) architect at Google. The profile doesn't reveal much, but Variety sources said Google hired him to design custom CPUs for Pixel devices.

The hire could set the Pixel on a path to compete more effectively with the iPhone in coming years as Gulati and a new team of chip designers deliver the same optimizations Apple's mobile devices have enjoyed since it shipped the A4 with the iPad in 2010.

Apple's custom chips have given it an edge over an industry that's largely dependent on Qualcomm's SoCs.

In addition to Galati's hire, Google is advertising for other hardware engineers and mobile SoC architects to "help define the architecture of future generations of phone and tablet SoCs".

Another role for a 'Mobile SOC CPU architect' states the candidate would "define the system-on-a-chip (SOC) sub-system architecture, feature and specification" and evaluate the performance, power, area, or PPA, of the sub-system.

The focus on designing an in-house chip probably reflects that phones of the future will need to be equipped to handle more demanding applications, such as augmented reality and locally powered machine learning.

And if Apple is to be believed, Google's Pixel phones have a lot of catching up to do. At WWDC Apple's SVP of software engineering Craig Federighi boasted that the iPhone is six times faster at image recognition than the Pixel phone.

Google's plans for its own designed chips have been rumored for several years with The Information reporting in 2015 that it had talked with chip makers about the prospect. And with the release of the Pixel, a Google exec suggested it would be heading towards custom processors for future phones.

Google's move into homegrown chips for phones comes as Apple makes a push into an area Google dominates, namely self-driving cars.

As Bloomberg reported in May, Apple is working on a dedicated AI processor designed to handle tasks such as facial recognition and speech recognition that could lay the groundwork for a chip for self-driving vehicles.

This activity may fit with Apple CEO Tim Cook's admission that it is working on "autonomous systems", including cars, which he says is "the mother of all AI projects".

More on Google's Pixel and Apple's iPhone

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