Google wants to design and build its own, in-house systems on a chip (SoC) to power future Google Pixel devices, according to an exclusive report published by Variety — and the Mountain View, California-based search-giant has acquired top-notch talent to help actualize its hopes and dreams straight from Apple’s turf.
According to his LinkedIn profile, an engineer named Manu Gulati was scooped up and crowned as Google’s “Lead SoC Architect” in May. Interestingly, prior to his role at Google, Gulati held a variety of senior, managerial, or technical engineering positions at AMD, Broadcom, and most recently, at Apple — where he spent the last eight-years as a micro-architect. During his tenure at Apple, which spanned from August, 2009, through April of this year, Gulati’s name was associated with as many as 15 Apple patents specifically related to chip design, according to CNBC — and he has over 20 years of combined experience in chip engineering under his belt.
Apple’s Chips Changed the Game
Back in 2010, Apple shifted its SoC fabrication in-house — debuting its first, 1 GHz A4 SoC in the original iPad, which was a byproduct of the company’s $278 million acquisition of Palo Alto Semiconductor (PA Semi) just two years earlier. Given the timeframe of his tenure at Apple, Gulati undoubtedly played an instrumental role in building the iPhone-maker’s A-series line of silicon into what it is today — arguably the most powerful line of mobile CPUs on the market, which is currently on the cusp of its 13th generation with the beastly A11 SoC that’s slated to debut in this year’s iPhone 7s, 7s Plus, and high-end iPhone 8 flagship.
While Apple’s A-series mobile processors are some of the fastest and most efficient around, the company’s shift to building its chips in-house prompted an international exodus in the mobile CPU space, with some of the company’s fiercest rivals following suit and shifting their own chip fabrication in-house, too. In the years since, Samsung and Huawei, for example, debuted their Exynos and HiSilicon Kirin SoC lines, respectively, in an attempt to gain more control of the smartphone market and their position in it.
What Gulati’s Transition to Google Means for Apple
HTC is the current manufacturer of Google’s Pixel devices, which, like the majority of Android-powered smartphones from the likes of Samsung, LG, and many others, currently run on any of several different Qualcomm-manufactured Snapdragon SoCs. And while Google’s flirtation with “breaking away from the pack” and shifting its SoC production in-house is unlikely to pose a far-reaching affect on Qualcomm’s bottom-line, the move does point to a growing trend among smartphone manufacturers who want more control over their products and the most vital components that go in them.
It’s unlikely that Apple will take a big hit with Gulati’s departure, seeing as how he’s merely one of many engineers working on the company’s SoC team — however if Google ultimately decides to move ahead with its plans to start building SoCs in-house, the iPhone-maker could ultimately face stiff competition in the area of SoC development.