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AMD Attracts Apple's Top Chip Architect Jim Keller

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 34 comments

AMD grabs the man from Apple who helped design the chips behind the iPhone, iPad, and contributed to the design of the MacBook Air.

AMD has had it kind of rough as of late. The company has lost a number of high profile employees over the last year, including Rick Bergman, Bob Feldstein, Eric Demers, Emilio Ghilardi, Bob Rivet, Marty Seyer, and John Bruno. In addition to some of their top guys jumping ship, the company late last year announced plans to cut a total of 1400 jobs. However, today AMD showed that the company still has what it takes to attract top talent. The company announced that Apple's top chip architect Jim Keller is jumping ship and joining AMD as the company's corporate vice president and chief architect for CPU cores.

Prior to his position at Apple as director of platform architecture, Keller was the VP of Design for PA Semi, which was purchased by Apple in 2008. Apple bought PA Semi for its engineering talent, which it planned to use to build custom chips for the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and other mobile devices. During Keller's time at Apple, Cupertino has churned out both the A4 and the A5.

Though the news comes as a surprise, Keller isn't exactly a stranger to AMD. From 1998 to 1999, Keller was a Senior Fellow at the company and lead architect for K8, co-author of the HT specification, co-author of the 64 bit x86 spec and part of the system engineering team that launched K7. In his new role as corporate VP and chief architect for CPU cores, he'll report directly to AMD CTO Mark Papermaster, who also served at Apple. 

Keller holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Penn State University. He graduated in 1980.

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  • 26 Hide
    fazers_on_stun , August 1, 2012 12:18 PM
    Finally, some good news for AMD.
  • 22 Hide
    killerclick , August 1, 2012 12:32 PM
    ilysamlNow we Can expect a new competition in CPUs Market.


    Now we can expect competition in 3-4 years. That's how long it will take, AMD's been developing Fusion since 2006, they can't just pull a new architecture out of this guy's ass.
  • 20 Hide
    Anonymous , August 1, 2012 12:50 PM
    Arm dosn't make CPUs, they design architectures which companies then license to produce their own chips. So the A4 / A5 were based on the ARM architecture, but designed and built by Apple.

    And @alyoshka... they hardly just poached some guy from Apple, this is the dude who was responsible for the K8. AKA the last time AMD came up with a decent architecture.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    ilysaml , August 1, 2012 12:06 PM
    Now we Can expect a new competition in CPUs Market.
  • 26 Hide
    fazers_on_stun , August 1, 2012 12:18 PM
    Finally, some good news for AMD.
  • 22 Hide
    killerclick , August 1, 2012 12:32 PM
    ilysamlNow we Can expect a new competition in CPUs Market.


    Now we can expect competition in 3-4 years. That's how long it will take, AMD's been developing Fusion since 2006, they can't just pull a new architecture out of this guy's ass.
  • 20 Hide
    Anonymous , August 1, 2012 12:50 PM
    Arm dosn't make CPUs, they design architectures which companies then license to produce their own chips. So the A4 / A5 were based on the ARM architecture, but designed and built by Apple.

    And @alyoshka... they hardly just poached some guy from Apple, this is the dude who was responsible for the K8. AKA the last time AMD came up with a decent architecture.
  • 7 Hide
    hotroderx , August 1, 2012 12:50 PM
    How long before Apple takes AMD to court over this saying AMD infringed on its CPU designs thanks to this guy. How long before Apple goes after this guy directly saying he is in breach of contract and can not work with AMD at all.
  • 13 Hide
    memadmax , August 1, 2012 12:58 PM
    Oh wow, now this is a surprise.

    I bet everyone on the Apple side are like: "Where did the magical unicorn go?", with big watery eyes that look like Finn's eyes when he's around the bubble gum princess in "Adventure Time"......
  • 5 Hide
    vipervoid1 , August 1, 2012 1:07 PM
    Hmm....
    AMD and Apple changing their engineer ?? ~
    Let see what these engineer can help them ~
  • -7 Hide
    spookyman , August 1, 2012 1:12 PM
    So will this make AMD or Apple better?
  • 6 Hide
    guderiancol , August 1, 2012 1:12 PM
    It is for phone and tablets market.
  • 9 Hide
    teh_chem , August 1, 2012 1:14 PM
    Interesting! 2 weeks ago we discovered that a graphics architect from AMD has been hired at Apple, now we're hearing about a chip designer from Apple has moved to AMD.

    alyoshkaApple.... oh that's sad..... AMD really ought to think of fresh minds..... Hiring someone from the Apple team isn't something of a mark of progress..... since it's not SJ himself....


    Are you kidding? While I don't really like or respect Apple as a company, they have a significant amount of cutting-edge chip engineers.

    hesusDoesnt Arm make Apple CPU's? Did he work for Arm or Apple?

    Apple designed and engineered the ARM processors that went in to Apple devices. But the architecture design knowledge that this person might bring could benefit any sort of architecture. I'm curious if they're interested in him for their desktop/laptop applications with current x86 architectures, or if they're interested into branching into ARM-based platforms.
  • 5 Hide
    11796pcs , August 1, 2012 1:16 PM
    hesusDoesnt Arm make Apple CPU's? Did he work for Arm or Apple?

    Apple designs the CPUs which are based off of the ARM architecture.
  • 11 Hide
    aracheb , August 1, 2012 1:20 PM
    deicistArm dosn't make CPUs, they design architectures which companies then license to produce their own chips. So the A4 / A5 were based on the ARM architecture, but designed and built by Apple.And @alyoshka... they hardly just poached some guy from Apple, this is the dude who was responsible for the K8. AKA the last time AMD came up with a decent architecture.

    co-author of the 64 bit x86 spec and part of the system engineering team that launched K7.
    i mean, co-author of the 64 bit that everybody use today. And also part of the team the launched the k7. " the processor that wiped Intel behinds for almost 4 years, the wiping was so bad that they had to fall to monopolistic/bribing tactics to keep business"
  • 4 Hide
    ewood , August 1, 2012 1:26 PM
    IJustWantToPost22No, no, no! He never "designed" any chips. He simply placed and ARM CPU next to a Video Chipset and called it A4, A5, etc. So if AMD wants someone that can put colored blocks next to each other and call it a "design", then I say; Let em have em! Just more junk AMD CPU "designs" down the road, lol!

    hesusDoesnt Arm make Apple CPU's? Did he work for Arm or Apple?


    he was part of the team the put colored blocks together to make K8; Id say its valuable to have him back.
  • 5 Hide
    horaciopz , August 1, 2012 1:36 PM
    I dont mind if AMD invents a technology to resurrect Steve Jobs and hire him as president to lead the way for AMD. I only want is to AMD to develop better products and make a sane competition against Intel. If this helps, great. But We all are going to see in long term what will happen. I just hope AMD Improves.
  • 6 Hide
    rebel1280 , August 1, 2012 1:48 PM
    alyoshkaApple.... oh that's sad..... AMD really ought to think of fresh minds..... Hiring someone from the Apple team isn't something of a mark of progress..... since it's not SJ himself....

    Dude, did you not read it? He was at AMD first....
    hesusDoesnt Arm make Apple CPU's? Did he work for Arm or Apple?

    He worked for a Chip company Apple bought...
    spookymanSo will this make AMD or Apple better?

    Most definitely AMD
    horaciopzI dont mind if AMD invents a technology to resurrect Steve Jobs and hire him as president to lead the way for AMD. I only want is to AMD to develop better products and make a sane competition against Intel. If this helps, great. But We all are going to see in long term what will happen. I just hope AMD Improves.

    Agreed, except for the Steve Jobs bit, thought would be interesting to see if he would say he would go nuclear on Intel as he did with Android lol
  • 0 Hide
    rantoc , August 1, 2012 2:26 PM
    I bet it was more interesting to actually create the chip logic rather than glue licensed parts together on a SoC - I know i would!
  • 2 Hide
    ashinms , August 1, 2012 2:49 PM
    It isn't like he just super glued a GPU to an arm CUP at apple. The instruction set is licensed to apple by arm. How the transistors are arranged to complete those instructions and the microcode that manages the communications between GPU and GPU (well, pretty much all microcode) are up to apple to design. His part would have been crucial to creating an efficient and capable architecture to execute the ARM instruction set.
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