Apple's architect of iPhone, iPad CPU leaves for AMD

Apple's architect of iPhone, iPad CPU leaves for AMD

When you're the best, people want you. CPU manufacturer AMD apparently wanted the best, and they've lured Apple's head chip designer Jim Keller away from the company.

Keller became an Apple employee in 2008 when Apple acquired startup chipmaker PA Semi. Keller has some former history with AMD, having been the original architect of the Athlon line of processors that were popular in 2005-2006.

While at PA Semi and Apple, Keller was responsible for the A4 and A5 processors that power the iPhone and iPad. Apple bought PA Semi in 2008 for US$278 million, moving to the ARM architecture for its mobile devices and shunning Intel's Atom mobile chips in the process. The reasoning behind this move was surprisingly prescient: Apple wanted to move away from its reliance on Samsung to design and make the chips that went into the first iPhone.

When he moves to AMD, Keller's new boss will be Mark Papermaster. For a short time, Papermaster was the Apple senior vice president of iPhone engineering. He quit following the 2010 iPhone 4 "antennagate scandal". More details follow in the official press release.

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August 01, 2012 08:00 ET
Computer Architect Jim Keller Joins AMD as Chief of Processor Group
Industry Veteran Architected Several Generations of Popular Apple, Broadcom and AMD Processors
SUNNYVALE, CA–(Marketwire – Aug 1, 2012) – AMD (NYSE: AMD) announced today that Jim Keller, 53, has joined the company as corporate vice president and chief architect of AMD's microprocessor cores, reporting to chief technology officer and senior vice president of technology and engineering Mark Papermaster. In this role, Keller will lead AMD's microprocessor core design efforts aligned with AMD's ambidextrous strategy with a focus on developing both high-performance and low-power processor cores that will be the foundation of AMD's future products.
"Jim is one of the most widely respected and sought-after innovators in the industry and a very strong addition to our engineering team," said Papermaster. "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."
Keller was most recently a director in the platform architecture group at Apple focusing on mobile products, where he architected several generations of mobile processors, including the chip families found in millions of Apple iPads, iPhones, iPods and Apple TVs. Prior to Apple, Keller was vice president of design for P.A. Semi, a fabless semiconductor design firm specializing in low-power mobile processors that was acquired by Apple in 2008. While there, he led the team responsible for building a powerful networking System on a Chip (SoC) and its integrated PowerPC processor. Keller previously worked at SiByte® and Broadcom as chief architect for a line of scalable, MIPS-based network processors that supported 1Gig networking interfaces, PCI and other control functions. Before Broadcom, he spent several years at AMD, playing an instrumental role on the design team responsible for the groundbreaking AMD Athlon™ 64 and AMD Opteron™ 64 processors, which featured the world's first native x86-64 bit architecture.
Keller co-authored the widely adopted HyperTransport specification, as well as the innovative x86-64 processor instruction set, which is used around the world today in hundreds of millions of desktop, notebook and server systems. Jim was a corporate consulting engineer at DEC, and architected two generations of Alpha processors during his tenure there. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Penn State University.