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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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. Semi?s 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 company?s 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."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 34
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,730member
    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!
  • Reply 2 of 34
    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.
  • Reply 3 of 34
    finetunesfinetunes Posts: 2,065member
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 34
    bageljoeybageljoey Posts: 1,730member
    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?
  • Reply 5 of 34
    finetunesfinetunes Posts: 2,065member
    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?
  • Reply 6 of 34
    ezduzitezduzit Posts: 158member
    i wonder if they still think that their options are still too low?
  • Reply 7 of 34
    What a waste of money on apples part.
  • Reply 8 of 34
    peteropetero Posts: 94member
    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
  • Reply 9 of 34
    henriokhenriok Posts: 537member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 34
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,127member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 34
    kingkueikingkuei Posts: 137member
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 34
    avidfcpavidfcp Posts: 381member
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 34
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 34
    mark2005mark2005 Posts: 1,158member
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 34
    Good discussion thread, gentlemen. Appreciated the thoughtful responses to everyone's comments.
  • Reply 16 of 34
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 34
    -ag--ag- Posts: 123member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 34
    -ag--ag- Posts: 123member
    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.
  • Reply 19 of 34
    kennmsrkennmsr Posts: 95member
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 34
    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?
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