AMD Poaches Key Apple Mobile Chip Design Guru


Advanced Micro Devices ($AMD) made a big splash today with the announcement that Jim Keller, a former Apple executive, will be returning back to the company as corporate vice president and chief architect of AMD’s processors.

During his time at Apple ($AAPL), Keller served as a director of the group that oversaw the design and fabrication of widely successful “A series” chips that are in devices like the iPhone and the iPad.  These power-sipping chips have proven to be a vital backbone of Apple’s ($AAPL) mobile computing strategy as they deliver horsepower while keeping power consumption to a minimum.

Keller, who previously was a vice-president at chip startup Palo Alto Semi, joined up with Apple when the startup was acquired in 2008.

AMD’s CTO Mark Papermaster, who previously worked as Keller’s boss at Palo Alto Semi, issued a statement about the move.

“Jim is one of the most widely respected and sought-after innovators in the industry and a very strong addition to our engineering team.  

He has contributed to processing innovations that have delivered tremendous compute advances for millions of people all over the world, and we expect that his innovative spirit, low-power design expertise, creativity and drive for success will help us shape our future and fuel our growth.”

– Mark Papermaster, Chief Technology Officer, Advanced Micro Devices

In Keller’s new role, he becomes AMD’s chief architect and he will be focused on designing innovative solutions for the enterprise, PC, and mobile.

TechInsidr Slant:  Adding Keller is definitely a big coup for AMD, as Keller has a proven track record of being one of the brightest mobile chip designers in the technology world.  Even though he tends to fly under the radar, Keller was an instrumental force behind Apple’s A4/A5 chips and he has a knack for “fine tuning” chips for low-power utilization.

This move comes at a key time because AMD has continued to lose ground to Intel ($INTC) in the x86 segment and they have no viable product to serve the low-power, mobile computing revolution.

Keller’s deep understanding of a variety of different architectures (x86, ARM, MIPS) is a big advantage for AMD, who has struggled to make headway into the mobile computing market.  With their recent acquisition of low-power server company SeaMicro, it certainly looks like AMD is willing to explore non-traditional market segments in order to fuel their growth.

It’s not every day that a highly successful executive leaves one of the best technology companies to work for an underdog like AMD, which gone through some painful transition periods over the last few years.

We will see what this chip wizard can do once he gets settled in at his new role, but certainly this is a slam dunk move for AMD.

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