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Former P.A. Semi chief leaves Apple for chip startup - report

post #1 of 35
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P.A. Semi founder and chief executive Dan Dobberpuhl, who joined Apple as part of the acquisition of his company two years ago, has since left the iPhone maker for a startup venture, according to a published report.

Though it has been unable the confirm the executive's departure with 100% certainty, CNet News.com cited "several sources" Saturday who claim that Dobberpuhl is no longer with Apple and that he made his exit sometime last year.

Those same people told the publication that they believe Dobberpuhl has joined Amarjit Gill, a former principal at P.A. Semi, at Silicon Valley start-up Agnilux, based out in San Jose.

If true, Dobberpuhl's departure from Apple is the latest in a growing pool of former P.A. Semi engineers who've submitted their papers since April of 2008, when Apple purchased the 150-employee chip design firm for $278 million in an effort to design proprietary chip technology for its mobile computing initiatives like the iPhone, iPod and iPad.

The New York Times recently cited partial records on the job networking site LinkedIn in revealing that at least half a dozen former PA Semi engineers appear to have left Apple and turned up at Agnilux. The company was co-founded by one of P.A. Semis leading system architects, Mark Hayter, who also bid farewell to Apple shortly after the acquisition.

"Neither Mr. Hayter nor other onetime PA workers who left Apple for Agnilux were willing to discuss either companys plans," the newspaper reported. "According to two people with knowledge of the two companies, who were unwilling to be named because the matter is delicate, some PA engineers left Apple a few months after the acquisition because they were given grants of Apple stock at an unattractive price."

For its part, CNet cited Linley Gwennap, president and principal analyst of The Linley Group, as suggesting that Dobberpuhl's departure -- and that of his peers -- may have been stemmed from a dramatic shift in the work environment that goes hand-and-hand with an Apple badge.

"He was the CEO at PA Semi and leader of the team, and one of the guys that was driving the whole thing," Gwennap said. But "those guys are start-up kind of people, and within the structure of Apple, they may [have been] chafing."
post #2 of 35
I went from being a partner in my business to being an employee with bosses and performance evaluations... Not always the easiest transition. I imagine working for Jobs could be particularly tough!

It would be nice to know what that new company does--maybe Apple will buy them again!
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post #3 of 35
Oh yeah, no kidding. Apple got what they really wanted out of it -- the IPs/patents/whatever. Beyond that, a culture shock is inevitable. It's hard to argue with anyone that thinks a change like that isn't what they signed up for, and didn't want to stay. Hope they're landing on their feet.
post #4 of 35
Wonder if there was a CNC clause in the purchase contract when Apple acquired PA Semiconductor--assuming that the new company will compete with PA Semiconductor.
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post #5 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by FineTunes View Post

Wonder if there was a CNC clause in the purchase contract when Apple acquired PA Semiconductor--assuming that the new company will compete with PA Semiconductor.

Is there a PA Semi to compete with anymore or have they been subsumed by Apple? Even if PA S still exists as a seperate entity, how could the new startup compete with them since their only customer to speak of would be Apple?
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post #6 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post

Is there a PA Semi to compete with anymore or have they been subsumed by Apple? Even if PA S still exists as a seperate entity, how could the new startup compete with them since their only customer to speak of would be Apple?

As far as PA Semiconductor being subsumed by Apple, it doesn't matter--if they have a CNC clause Agnilux can't compete with PA Semiconductor or the Apple Semiconductor Company, essentially the same company as the original PAS. Issue could be moot if either there was no CNC clause or if Agnilux is not a competitor.

Whose to say that at some time in the future Apple might want to market their chip to other manufacturers?
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post #7 of 35
i wonder if they still think that their options are still too low?
post #8 of 35
What a waste of money on apples part.
post #9 of 35
On Apple's PA Semi acquisition...

Chris Edwards: April, 2008

"[T]he move by Apple suggests that the company is not all that happy with the shape of today's integrated circuit (IC) business.

"One possibility is that Apple has decided it needs more in-house chip designers and buying PA was a quick way to staff up. That's not unusual in this business: it's a surprisingly common way of getting hold of people who can design the analogue circuits that most electronics engineers fear to touch. Even after you've bought[sic] in a bunch of processors and memory, there are other places a computer maker can use experienced IC designers to get an edge on its competitors. You don't see that much in the PC business but it's a lot more common in places like the phone market.

"This particular team has a string of famous processors behind it, as it's the team led by former Digital Equipment Corporation architect Dan Dobberpuhl - responsible for the Alpha, famed for being the world's fastest processor for a while, and the StrongARM, which Intel ended up using to push its way into the PDA business before passing the design on to Marvell Semiconductor. With that kinds of background, it's hard to see this team being happy to work on glue logic. Apple might be able to lock the senior people in for a while but, if the project isn't a processor or something similarly complex, you would expect most of them to drift away quite quickly. So, it's fair to assume that Apple is serious about having its own processor design team, if not the PA processor itself."

http://blog.hackingcough.com/2008/04/apple-gives-the.htm


Forbes: April, 2008

"Apple has been rightfully proud of the iPhone, and has predicted that it will sell 10 million of the devices by the end of 2008. But that success has had a cost, too: Virtually every mobile-phone maker is scrambling to develop an iPhone-like device. Jobs has long asserted that Apple's greatest strengths lay in its software and in its ability to integrate hardware and software. The result: Machines that combine appealing design with an intuitive user interface, such as the iPhone. But interfaces--as Jobs well knows--can be mirrored, if not copied.

"Few in the high-tech world are as wary as Jobs of turning control of core components over to a partner. (PeterO: e.g. Apple's common practice of rotating IC suppliers between iPod generations). The PC industry has been his proving ground; over the past three decades, he has watched numerous PC makers that have built their products around Intel's microprocessors wind up in fierce battles for narrower and narrower profit margins." (PeterO: e.g. Apple clone computers during Jobs' 1990s sabbatical)

http://www.forbes.com/2008/04/23/apple-buys-pasemi-tech-ebiz-cz_eb_0422apple.html
post #10 of 35
Dobberpuhl is 64 years old and probably well behind his prime as a technician, but he's probably a great team leader. I'm more worried by the lower level staff from PA Semi leaving Apple.
post #11 of 35
I sure as hell am not going to to lose sleep over a near retirement age man who wants to do another start up. Good for him.
post #12 of 35
PA Semi had a number of military contracts with the Pentagon, which Apple agreed to maintain for a period of time. It's fully possible that the individuals who are leaving are simply doing so as Apple gradually winds down those projects/contracts. Furthermore, Apple has often used generous stock grants (NOT options) to retain top employees. Irregardless of the working conditions at Apple, it should still be very hard for high level people to walk away from that kind of money. If Apple really wanted to retain some of those employees that left, I doubt they would have been offered "unattractive" packages.
post #13 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitch1984 View Post

What a waste of money on apples part.

Maybe. But then again they might know something we don't.
post #14 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitch1984 View Post

What a waste of money on apples part.

Why so? Just because you could make an assertion of of the blue?

I am not saying you're right or wrong, but if you can't or won't explain why bother to post such drivel.
post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitch1984 View Post

What a waste of money on apples part.

How do you know that? Apple may have bought patents, and Dobberpuhl and PA Semi staff may have set in place the architecture/foundation for the low-power mobile chips Apple wants to make before they left. Apple may have made a mistake in evaluating and letting them go but we won't know that for a long time.

We haven't heard much from Papermaster; I was hoping that Apple would've done a dog-and-pony show for the A4 chip with Papermaster, like they did with Ive and the aluminum unibody enclosure. But I guess Apple doesn't want to reveal anything yet.
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post #16 of 35
Good discussion thread, gentlemen. Appreciated the thoughtful responses to everyone's comments.
post #17 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mitch1984 View Post

What a waste of money on apples part.

I don't think Apple are going to miss the money I'd be more worried about their ability to continue developing good processors if all the PA Semi top dogs are leaving, but who knows.
post #18 of 35
Hmmmm heres an idea.

Instead of reading the article as its been 2 years and everyone is fleeing for greener pastures.

Maybe read it as what it is.
Quote:
"Dobberpuhl's departure from Apple is the latest in a growing pool of former P.A. Semi engineers who've submitted their papers since April of 2008, when Apple purchased the 150-employee chip design firm"

So reading this part there were 150ish people working there almost 2 years ago.

Quote:
The New York Times recently cited partial records on the job networking site LinkedIn in revealing that at least half a dozen former PA Semi engineers appear to have left Apple and turned up at Agnilux.

Half a Dozen = 6

So we are looking at 6 people have decided to leave a team of 150, one of which is almost ready to retire.

Over a 2 year time frame thats not a bad batting average, especially when talking about a company as big as Apple, and when the situation of taking over another company and people just not wanting to be a member of the vastly different team.

Id say this story has been blown WAY out of proportion.
post #19 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel001 View Post

I don't think Apple are going to miss the money I'd be more worried about their ability to continue developing good processors if all the PA Semi top dogs are leaving, but who knows.

Its not always the "Top Dogs" that do the design or come up with the great ideas. Instead its the lower minions that are slaving away under them.

The upper management are usually great team leaders but are usually out of the loop, some exceptions apply but in general they are visionaries and not the actual designers, take Jobs and Woz as an example.
post #20 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by ezduzit View Post

i wonder if they still think that their options are still too low?

I was more than happy to buy more into Apple in April of 2008 even at market prices hovering around $80 and today at $227 my retirement fund is looking pretty sweet. If Steve and Company would only dip into that hoard of cash and drop us shareholders a little of the bread crumbs. Than to throw money at a bunch of ingrates who happen to have a little IP and Patent Portfolio in their back pockets.
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post #21 of 35
I agree 6/150 is not an incredible loss. Of course, there is also a risk of losing employees through an acquisition. However, I can't believe the projects wouldn't be challenging enough. PA Semi employees have been pushing to make power efficient processors, right? Power efficient processors are incredibly important in mobile devices. I'm sure Steve has a huge expectation on them, so if they want a challenge it's there.

Of course another interesting consideration is that those people have been buried in Apple and can't show off their hard work. Hell...Apple is completely tight-lipped on the A4. I'm guessing they may be waiting on patents to be published and/or devices to hit the market because they don't want someone in China to duplicate their processor.

But in this day and age, isn't it possible to analyze an actual physical processor anyway? Scan the silicon and steal the blueprints?
post #22 of 35
Apple can attract a lot of talent so there's no worries about their semi-conductor business. Motorola bled many great engineers and I'm sure IBM and AMD have a few willing to depart for greener pastures as well. There's always industry bleed.
post #23 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by allantlg View Post

Good discussion thread, gentlemen. Appreciated the thoughtful responses to everyone's comments.

Ok, now that we have had a good discussion can I start the toilet humor? Or I am stuck in the dumps?

I must admit that when I first read the headline I felt a little alarmed but after further reading it doesn't seem like they lost that many people. When factoring in family issues, retirement and boredom that seems like a normal part of ebb and flow of any company.

One thing that was mentioned in a previous post is what happened to the IBM wiz kid? It seams to me that after going through such a PUBLIC pissing match with IBM that Apple would be trotting him out now and then. I am starting to suspect that he might not be fitting in all that well and will be retiring for "personal reasons" before the end of the year.

Anyone want to place a (hypothetical) bet? ;-)
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post #24 of 35
As long as most of the key engineers are still motivated enough to work within Apple they'll be fine. But my hunch is that the "start-up kind of people" who resigned are trying to motivate some of the top engineers and take them with them to start the new thing.
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post #25 of 35
He is no longer required. Not a big deal
- Steve.

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post #26 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by -AG- View Post

Hmmmm heres an idea.

Instead of reading the article as its been 2 years and everyone is fleeing for greener pastures.

Maybe read it as what it is.

So reading this part there were 150ish people working there almost 2 years ago.

Half a Dozen = 6

So we are looking at 6 people have decided to leave a team of 150, one of which is almost ready to retire.

Over a 2 year time frame thats not a bad batting average, especially when talking about a company as big as Apple, and when the situation of taking over another company and people just not wanting to be a member of the vastly different team.

Id say this story has been blown WAY out of proportion.

Did you read the bit that said "at least six...". You have taken that part and interpreted it as a confirmed and fixed quantity equal to 6, which is not what was said at all.

While a journalist might relatively easily find out the names of the employees forming the top echelons of a company, getting a full list of all the employees would be extremely doubtful, let alone trying to determine the current whereabouts of all of them.

The article could as easily be trying to hint that 6 ise just the tip of an iceberg. I am not saying it is, but it looks like there is a significant possibility that the true number of departees could be significantly higher.

Six is the minimum.

There is an old aphorism that goes: 'no need to buy the cow when all you want is a glass of milk.'
post #27 of 35
And the reverse may very well be true too.

Knowing that 150 people came to Apple to design some super cool processors, ICs, etc. could very well have brought in other new talent that we don't know of.

Frankly, I think this is a story only of the entrepreneur types that started PA Semi who like being entrepreneurs. I'd expect them to start up another company.

So, some leave, some come. There may in fact be MORE than the 150 working in whatever areas the PA Semi people are working in just because they wanted to work at Apple along with the PA Semi guys/gals.

Nice story on the entrepreneurs moving. A non-issue as far as there being any big deal about losing a few PA Semi people.
post #28 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by KennMSr View Post

... If Steve and Company would only dip into that hoard of cash and drop us shareholders a little of the bread crumbs. Than to throw money at a bunch of ingrates who happen to have a little IP and Patent Portfolio in their back pockets.

This is a bit much isn't it?

The lowest, stupidest Apple retail employee has more rights to profit from Apple than any shareholder IMO. You put in some money. Big freaking deal. That doesn't make you deserving of anything in my book.

The market is finally coming around to realising that stock splits and dividends just bleed money out of the company for no reason. Apple as usual, is way ahead of the game and realised that years ago.

Your investment has gone up in value rather considerably. I don't know why you think you deserve cash payments on the side as well. What did you as a stockholder actually contribute to the success of the company? Nothing, that's what.
post #29 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

Your investment has gone up in value rather considerably. I don't know why you think you deserve cash payments on the side as well. What did you as a stockholder actually contribute to the success of the company? Nothing, that's what.


If you have OWNership of a company, you should certainly expect to get a cut of the proceeds proportionate to your stake.
post #30 of 35
A couple of items:

Apple maintains an internel chip dev team that has been around for a long time (VLSI team if I remember correctly).

I think the point made about acquiring the IP and patents around PASemi's working designs being the critical goal for the acquisition was most likely. Dan Dobberpuhl would have come on board for a specified time to ease the transition, but then probably had an agreement with a NC clause to go out and do something else with his time and talents. Agnilux, if you all remember from previous postings, is working on chip fab for the server/networking space - I belive there was mention of a partnership or client relationship with Cisco around this. It makes the most sense for Dan to provide in-house transitional assistance to Apple and then go his way - a fairly common industry practice in merger and acquisition situations like this.

The key players, unless given strong incentive to stay, would likely move on as well. Frequently the personalities of the officers and executives are non-meshable in cases like this - and they would do as Dan did, provide transition support and then move on to the next project.

I expect we will hear all about Agnilux' work in the network/server space in due time. Or perhaps Dan will join up with the ex-Apple social club, Elevation Partners and help bail out Palm and other SIlicon Valley critical cases.
post #31 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by BB Sting View Post

If you have OWNership of a company, you should certainly expect to get a cut of the proceeds proportionate to your stake.

Invest in Boeing or Microsoft. You'll get a dividend and not much else.
post #32 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bageljoey View Post

Is there a PA Semi to compete with anymore or have they been subsumed by Apple? Even if PA S still exists as a seperate entity, how could the new startup compete with them since their only customer to speak of would be Apple?

They would have the same military customers that Apple doesn't particularly want/need to cater to. I used to work for what was Pixars image analysis arm that did software for "government agencys". Jobs sold it off as a distraction so I susect that there's no real animosity here.
post #33 of 35
I have seen this over and over again.

People go to these startups many times making very little since no VC is willing to see most of its money they put into these companies go to salaries. In exchange for low pay they take a bunch of pre-IPO stock options values anywwhere form $0.10 to a few $. Then the company goes public and they make a bunch or it is sold and they again make a bunch. or the third and less talked about is they do not make lots since the VC need to come out a head and employees get screwed since the VC's revalued the employee stock to make the company more attracted to be sold or dumps on to the unexpected investor. I seen where people had 10 of thousands of shares in a startup only to have them reverse split on them right before it is sold or dump on the market.

The problem is VC's get preferred stock and employee get ordinary stock, the holder of preferred will always get their money out first and to ensure that happens the ordinary stock can be devalued at any time

Either way these employee usually leave since they feel they are not going to make as much if they stay and they think hey I did it once I bet I can do it again at another startup.

If it was true many left because the option they got from Apple were valued too high to stay, well they were given to them during the time when Apple's stock was rocking up and then crashed back so yeah their stock was not worth much then but today it would be.

I bet most of these people think they will hit it big again, which may not be the case.
post #34 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post


I bet most of these people think they will hit it big again, which may not be the case.

They are traitors. They will fail.
post #35 of 35
I'll take one of those Apple chip jobs left behind by the former employees, just train me Apple!
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