Apple woos chip design guru away from Samsung

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Former AMD chip designer Jim Mergard, a noted engineer of both desktop class and mobile processors, is said to have been hired Apple after working for a short time at Samsung.

Jim Mergard
Chip guru Jim Mergard.


According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple's new hire is quite the coup as Mergard, who designed and developed chips at Advanced Micro Devices for 16 years, serving as the company's vice president and chief engineer before leaving for Samsung, was thought to be one of the Korean company's top prospects.

Among the chip designer's more notable accomplshments is his work on a high-profile AMD processor dubbed "Brazos," which was tailored for use in low-end laptops.

Former AMD executive Patrick Moorhead said Mergard is an expert in both PC technology as well as systems on a chip, the latter being the architecture used by Apple in its A-series of mobile processors.

Moorhead contends that Mergard's expertise may possibly spill into Apple's PC sector, perhaps as a first step into desktop and laptop class processors, a proposition long-rumored to be in the cards for Apple.

?He would be very capable of pulling together internal and external resources to do a PC processor for Apple,? Moorhead said.

The Cupertino company has been dabbling with creating their own silicon for years, finally releasing its first consumer-ready chip with the A4, an ARM Cortex-A8 CPU first used in the original iPad.

Most recently, the new iPhone 5's A6 SoC features Apple's first custom-designed core, a major step away from the standard ARM architecture used by other manufacturers. Based on the ARMv7s instruction set, the core's design change allowed Apple to squeeze double the performance out the SoC without sacrificing efficiency.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 92


    Good news.

     

  • Reply 2 of 92
    Opening sentence... "hired BY Apple"
  • Reply 3 of 92

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    The Cupertino company has been dabbling with creating their own silicon for years, finally releasing its first consumer-ready chip with the A4, an ARM Cortex-A8 CPU first used in the original iPad.

    Most recently, the new iPhone 5's A6 SoC features Apple's first custom-designed core, a major step away from the standard ARM architecture used by other manufacturers. While still based on the ARMv7 instruction set, the core's design change allowed Apple to squeeze double the performance out the SoC without sacrificing efficiency.


     


    If I'm not mistaken, the Mega II chip from the Apple IIGS would be an example of custom silicon from Apple. It was a CPU shy of being a bona-fide SoC.

  • Reply 4 of 92


    Cue the "Apple is moving away from Intel by making their own CPU" comments.

  • Reply 5 of 92
    ivladivlad Posts: 739member


    I think Apple's own chip running OS X will be crazy amazing. If they can pull it off that means no more Intel relationship. There's only few more years until iOS jumps to Macs.

  • Reply 6 of 92

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by iVlad View Post


    I think Apple's own chip running OS X will be crazy amazing. If they can pull it off that means no more Intel relationship. There's only few more years until iOS jumps to Macs.



     


    Pretty much.  it's inevitable.


     


    We're already on that road.


     


    Matter of time.


     


    Lemon Bon Bon.

  • Reply 7 of 92
    Steal trade dress and patented ideas: $1,049,343,540. Lose famous chip designer: Priceless.
  • Reply 8 of 92

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Lemon Bon Bon. View Post


     


    Pretty much.  it's inevitable.


     


    We're already on that road.


     


    Matter of time.


     


    Lemon Bon Bon.



    We will gain a lot in everything related to laptops, tablets and smartphones.. but what about desktops/workstations?


    Will Apple really put the hammger down?


     


    I will only believe it when i see xcode for iPad.

  • Reply 9 of 92
    tylerk36tylerk36 Posts: 1,037member


    Do you want to make Kimchi for the rest of your life?

  • Reply 10 of 92

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    While still based on the ARMv7 instruction set […]


     


    That’s not true. A6 is based on a new, Apple-developed ARMv7s instruction set (note the ‘s’), which is backwards-compatible with ARMv7. The new Xcode builds ‘fat’ binaries that contain code for both.

  • Reply 11 of 92
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    ivlad wrote: »
    I think Apple's own chip running OS X will be crazy amazing. If they can pull it off that means no more Intel relationship. There's only few more years until iOS jumps to Macs.

    I'm less certain this is feasible for Apple. With building their own Apple A-chips they are still using ARM reference designs thus still paying ARM for their efforts in advancing their tech. With this they will have to make an x86 compatible chip that won't get blown out of the water by Intel (I think Intel holds back because they can) or go with an ARM-based system for their Macs which will kill any virtualization options for Windows (which I think is a big draw for Macs). I certainly wouldn't want to give up my Mac or my VMWare where I try out new Windows builds. MS has made the WinNT kernel run on ARM but I'm not sure how that will translate over to their desktop OSes. MS and Apple could both flip on Intel but at this point I see no proof of that happening.
  • Reply 12 of 92
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Moorhead contends that Mergard's expertise may possibly spill into Apple's PC sector, perhaps as a first step into desktop and laptop class processors, a proposition long-rumored to be in the cards for Apple has long been rumored to be mulling.

     


    Is a copy editor in the cards for AI? Please be mulling...

  • Reply 13 of 92
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post




    ... or go with an ARM-based system for their Macs which will kill any virtualization options for Windows ...



    If the chip is powerful enough to emulate and VM was rewritten to execute ARM instructions wouldn't it be the same as running VM right now? Boot Camp I understand would be a problem but running in a virtual machine should still be possible.

  • Reply 14 of 92

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    I'm less certain this is feasible for Apple. With building their own Apple A-chips they are still using ARM reference designs thus still paying ARM for their efforts in advancing their tech. With this they will have to make an x86 compatible chip that won't get blown out of the water by Intel (I think Intel holds back because they can) or go with an ARM-based system for their Macs which will kill any virtualization options for Windows (which I think is a big draw for Macs). I certainly wouldn't want to give up my Mac or my VMWare where I try out new Windows builds. MS has made the WinNT kernel run on ARM but I'm not sure how that will translate over to their desktop OSes. MS and Apple could both flip on Intel but at this point I see no proof of that happening.


     


    I think people are reading this wrong. IOS devices will soon represent more than 90% of Apple's income. The Mac and non-IOS iPods are going to be fringe product lines. Apple is putting all their energy into IOS devices and this new hire will most certainly be part of that with future iPhones, iPods, iPads, TV products and whatever else their collected imaginations conjure up and dare to do. Huge investments dwarfed by mind boggling returns.


     


    It may be that the iPad will expand to grab a bigger piece of the PC pie, but converting Macs to some kind of Arm based processor doesn't seem like it would be worth the effort. If Apple flips on Intel it will be to AMD.

  • Reply 15 of 92
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    mstone wrote: »
    If the chip is powerful enough and VM was rewritten to execute ARM instructions wouldn't it be the same as running VM right now? Boot Camp I understand would be a problem but running in a virtual machine should still be possible.

    If you are executing x86 code it would then be emulated, not virtualized. This is much slower. Remember MS Virtual PC for PPC Macs? It wasn't good. The only solution would be for Windows to offer their desktop OSes with the ARM kernels. You then get the driver issues that we saw with Windows when they moved from 32 to 64-bit but it's do-able and MS certainly seems better poised to eschew Intel for ARM (read: add ARM instruction set as an option to x86 and x86_64) if they want to then they seemed ready to adopt 64-bit.
  • Reply 16 of 92
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    jonshf wrote: »
    I think people are reading this wrong. IOS devices will soon represent more than 90% of Apple's income. The Mac and non-IOS iPods are going to be fringe product lines. Apple is putting all their energy into IOS devices and this new hire will most certainly be part of that with future iPhones, iPods, iPads, TV products and whatever else their collected imaginations conjure up and dare to do. Huge investments dwarfed by mind boggling returns.

    It may be that the iPad will expand to grab a bigger piece of the PC pie, but converting Macs to some kind of Arm based processor doesn't seem like it would be worth the effort. If Apple flips on Intel it will be to AMD.

    Im with you on that. I think it would make more sense to work with AMD if they really wanted to go that route but just focusing more on the iOS-based processing seems like a much wider path for them to take.
  • Reply 17 of 92
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 1,791member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post





    I'm less certain this is feasible for Apple. With building their own Apple A-chips they are still using ARM reference designs thus still paying ARM for their efforts in advancing their tech. With this they will have to make an x86 compatible chip that won't get blown out of the water by Intel (I think Intel holds back because they can) or go with an ARM-based system for their Macs which will kill any virtualization options for Windows (which I think is a big draw for Macs). I certainly wouldn't want to give up my Mac or my VMWare where I try out new Windows builds. MS has made the WinNT kernel run on ARM but I'm not sure how that will translate over to their desktop OSes. MS and Apple could both flip on Intel but at this point I see no proof of that happening.


     


    Actually that's not quite true. With the A6 Apple did not use an ARM reference design, it is a custom micro-architecture design. They are however using ARM's ARMv7 ISA, which describes the instruction set.


     


    Intel and AMD have very different micro-architecture designs in their CPUs, but they both adhere to the AMD64 ISA, which makes them code/binary compatible.


     


    Remember Apple did buy up to 2 different design teams, one that worked on ARM (Intrinsity) and the other worked on Power (P.A. Semi designed their own cores from the ground up). It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that they could very well design their own AMD64 cores as well.

  • Reply 18 of 92
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    mjtomlin wrote: »
    Actually that's not quite true. With the A6 Apple did not use an ARM reference design, it is a custom micro-architecture design. They are however using ARM's ARMv7<span style="line-height:normal;"> </span>
    ISA, which describes the instruction set.

    Intel and AMD have very different micro-architecture designs in their CPUs, but they both adhere to the AMD64 ISA, which makes them code/binary compatible.

    Remember Apple did buy up to 2 different design teams, one that worked on ARM (Intrinsity) and the other worked on Power (P.A. Semi designed their own cores from the ground up). It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine that they could very well design their own AMD64 cores as well.

    So they aren't licensing any tech from ARM for their A6 chip?
  • Reply 19 of 92
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,779member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    I'm less certain this is feasible for Apple. With building their own Apple A-chips they are still using ARM reference designs thus still paying ARM for their efforts in advancing their tech. With this they will have to make an x86 compatible chip that won't get blown out of the water by Intel (I think Intel holds back because they can) or go with an ARM-based system for their Macs which will kill any virtualization options for Windows (which I think is a big draw for Macs). I certainly wouldn't want to give up my Mac or my VMWare where I try out new Windows builds. MS has made the WinNT kernel run on ARM but I'm not sure how that will translate over to their desktop OSes. MS and Apple could both flip on Intel but at this point I see no proof of that happening.

    Is an Intel chip as a BTO addition (as in an extra CPU daughter card) for those that want VM capability not feasible in Macs if Apple did go their own way for the most part?
  • Reply 20 of 92

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post


    Do you want to make Kimchi for the rest of your life?



     


    or work for a copycat for the rest of your life?


     


     


    It seems like Apple's business strategy  is largely consisted of stealing Samsung's business partners (Intrinsity, Anobity) or stealing employees from Google Maps or Samsung's semi team.  Can Apple do anything original? 

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