Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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4/30/2009
06:53 PM
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Apple Turning To Chip Design For Its Innovation

Apple's plans for all this design power are likely to revolve around video and power consumption, and will boost the company's desire for secrecy.

Apple appears to be turning to chip design to develop unique features for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and future mobile products, a strategy that experts say would play to the company's strength as an innovator.

Ever since Apple bought PA Semi, a maker of low-power chips, a year ago, experts have said the company is likely to become in time the designer of its own mobile processors, which could deliver capabilities that Apple rivals would have difficulty imitating. Today, Apple works with Samsung Electronics in customizing off-the-shelf ARM-based microprocessors for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Other indications that Apple is moving deeper into chip design include the hiring spree the company has been on. A recent search of the networking site LinkedIn by The Wall Street Journal revealed more than 100 people working for Apple with past expertise in semiconductors. The employees include veterans of Intel, Samsung, and Qualcomm.

This week, Apple hired Raja Koduri, a CTO fresh from Advanced Micro Devices' graphics product group. It was the second such hire from AMD. Apple recently hired Bob Drebin, who held the same title. Both men had worked as engineer directors for graphics chipmaker ATI Technologies, which AMD acquired in 2006.

Apple's plans for all this design power are likely to revolve around video and power consumption, and will boost the company's desire for secrecy, experts say. Taking control of chip development would help avoid leaks on future products from Asian manufacturers. In addition, it makes it less likely the technology will be accessible to competitors.

"Apple has an extremely secretive culture and believes that secrecy serves it very well," Gartner analyst Van Baker told InformationWeek. "Clearly, if they're doing their own silicon development, then that would increase their secrecy."

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