Back when Apple and Qualcomm were still at war, the Cupertino company accused the chip-maker of having a near-monopoly on modem chips, and as Apple struggles to build its own 5G dream team and Intel throws in the towel, it’s become clear that Qualcomm is very much the 800-pound gorilla in the business.
There’s really no doubt at this point that Apple is working on its own 5G modem chip. The iPhone maker prefers to own as much of its supply chain as possible, and we’ve been seeing news of this from inside Apple for a while now. Further, although alliances are built out of necessity, after spending two years in a heated war with Qualcomm, Apple concession that it needed the chip-maker was almost certainly a grudging one.
So yesterday we reported that in the wake of Intel’s demise, Apple had gained some key engineering resources from the beleaguered company, but it appears that in the midst of the mess that is 5G chip development right now, Apple may be losing talent as fast as it’s gaining it.
An exclusive report from The Information last night revealed that Apple engineering VP Rubén Caballero has left the building, potentially resulting in some more tumult within Apple’s chip design team. Caballero was with Apple for over 14 years, working on the early iPhone and iPad designs and later expanding his role to include Apple’s entire hardware lineup before moving over to the wireless side of the business, where he was credited as the “senior antenna expert” who sounded the alarm to Steve Jobs over the iPhone 4 “antennagate” issue, and eventually rose through the rank to become the driving force behind Apple’s efforts to develop its own 5G technology in-house. Caballero’s name also figures prominently on almost all of Apple’s wireless patents.
It’s unclear, however, what Caballero’s role was after Apple shifted its modem engineering efforts to its chip design group in January. At the time, Reuters reported that the 5G project was being shifted away from Hardware Engineering, the division led by Senior VP Dan Riccio that’s responsible for integrating electric components into Apple’s products, and placed under the helm of Apple’s Senior VP of Hardware Technologies, Johnny Srouji, the division that actually designs new chips. It’s also worth noting that Srouji was also being considered a potential candidate in Intel’s recent search for a new CEO. Caballero headed up the 5G efforts as part of Riccio’s overall engineering team, but his skills may have also been more focused on integration rather than design, and it’s unclear whether he followed the project over to Srouji’s division.
At this point, it’s unknown where Caballero is going or what the reasons were for his departure. His LinkedIn profile still lists him in his position at Apple, although internal sources say he’s no longer in the company directory or organizational charts. With all of the recent 5G developments surrounding Apple, it’s a safe bet that the company is still shuffling things around within its 5G design and engineering teams, where it will also need to divide resources and attention between integrating Qualcomm’s latest 5G chips into future iPhone designs — 5G is a whole new ballgame when it comes to antennas and hardware integration — while at the same time slowly moving the ball toward Apple’s ultimate goal of producing its own 5G modem chip.