Apple Begins Hiring Chipmakers in Qualcomm’s Backyard

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As the legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm rages on, the iPhone maker has begun to encroach on the latter’s home turf, aggressively hiring 4G and 5G engineers in San Diego, where the chipmaker’s headquarters are located. Apple’s goal is ostensibly to poach chip engineers from its legal rival and weaken Qualcomm’s hold on the global smartphone chip market, Bloomberg notes in its report.

So far, Apple has posted 10 new job listings for chip design positions this month in San Diego– a first for both San Diego and the Northern California-based company. As of now, it is unclear whether Apple has opened an office in the city or plans to do so for its incoming cohort of chip engineers. The iPhone maker already owns offices in San Diego thanks to its acquisitions of Shazam.

Apple is seeking both hardware and software engineers with experience in 5G to focus on wireless chip and modem design– both of which are Qualcomm’s strong suits. The iPhone maker is also hiring engineers to work on its Neural Engines, which is what Apple calls the dedicated neural network and machine learning hardware used in its A11 and A12 processors. Apple’s long-term goal seems to be to design and produce as many of the components used in its products as possible. Thus far, Bloomberg notes that it has come out with its own wireless chips for the AirPods and Apple, but has yet to do so for the iPhone–its flagship product. If it succeeds, Apple would free itself from reliance on parts produced by Qualcomm and cut down on intellectual property costs.

power management chip with apple logo
A power management supply chip bearing the Apple logo, inside an iPhone 6.Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

This tension lies at the root of the current legal battle between Apple and Qualcomm. Until recently, Apple used Qualcomm’s superior wireless chips to connect its iPhones to cell towers. Last year however, Apple began using Intel’s slower chips in its iPhones and abruptly stopped paying Qualcomm billions in royalties, arguing that Qualcomm was overcharging for royalties and abusing its dominant position in the market. Qualcomm retaliated with a lawsuit and at one point, sued to block iPhone imports into the US.

“Apple’s complaint contains a lot of assertions, but in the end, this is a commercial dispute over the price of the intellectual property.

“Apple’s complaint contains a lot of assertions, but in the end, this is a commercial dispute over the price of intellectual property,” Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf said, according to CNET“They want to pay less for the fair value that Qualcomm has established in the marketplace for our technology, even though Apple has generated billions in profits from using that technology.”

The highly publicized legal dispute between the two companies has since spread to other countries, including China and the UK. Apple’s latest move will do little to ameliorate the animosity between the two companies.

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