back to article Microsoft poaches Apple chip expert for custom silicon

Apple's having a problem retaining top chip personnel, with the latest defection being CPU architect Mike Filippo going to Microsoft. As chief compute architect at Microsoft, Filippo will design server chips for the software giant, according to media reports. Earlier this month Jeff Wilcox, Apple's Arm-based M1 CPU lead, also …

  1. HildyJ Silver badge
    Holmes

    Poached

    As the article points out, Wilcox was poached by Apple from Intel and then Intel poached him back.

    Doesn't sound like poached, more like over-easy.

    Software, hardware, design, manufacturing, and especially consulting - all have well greased revolving doors

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Poached

      In fairness to Apple the Chip honcho's leaving may just be a result of the bulk of the innovation having been completed now the M1 is well established - presumably there are 2-3 more generations in the pipeline so the shepherding of the pipeline can be left to others.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Poached

        I think Jim Keller - former AMD, Apple, Intel chip engineer - said he liked to start a project that he can see having a real benefit on a company's fortune. He was involved in Athlon 64 and and Apple's A -series.

    2. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Poached, or over-easy?

      A great use of metaphor. :D A hearty thumbs up!

  2. Omnipresent

    admittedly...

    That was faster than I even expected. Start saving for the new (fastest ever) intel macs.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: admittedly...

      Nah, I'll pass, if I want a locked-down household appliance I'll buy a washing machine.

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: admittedly...

      It does feel like Mac performance might be lagging in a few years. We'll have to see....

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: admittedly...

        Lagging compared to what?

  3. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Industrial Espionage is Alive and Well and Kicking in Multi $Trillion Corporations/Corpses. *

    Although no one would say such vessels are dead, the recent scurrying of leading executives does have one thinking of rats leaving sinking ships which then further morphs into thoughts of Remote Access Trojans if thinking of returning rats invading familiar territory.

    * Well, what do you think? Is it more likely than not?

    1. Trotts36

      Re: Industrial Espionage is Alive and Well and Kicking in Multi $Trillion Corporations/Corpses. *

      Hot psychopath take right here boys

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Industrial Espionage is Alive and Well and Kicking in Multi $Trillion Corporations/Corpses. *

        Not bad at all for a first post, Trotts36. You might find there be lots more to enjoy daily here with many able to offer great support and stealthy guidance in return and reply.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Industrial Espionage is Alive and Well and Kicking in Multi $Trillion Corporations/Corpses. *

        We only apply psychiatric terms like 'psychopath' to human entities. AMFM doesn't qualify.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Industrial Espionage is Alive and Well and Kicking in Multi $Trillion Corporations/Corpses. *

      Allow me to translate this into terms I can process easier on account of it being Friday.

      You're wondering if we're looking at people leaving because they see problems ahead or at industrial espionage because these people walk off with business and strategy knowledge?

      I'm not sure either applies.

      I have the impression that the people that have moved did so because their project was finished and they don't like being in maintenance mode much. Yes, they will take insight with them, but I think that game has been long dealt with. I suspect these guys have only been given enough data to develop as required, but not much more exactly because of the well established revolving doors between companies.

      As for sinking ships, I'm not sure that applies to companies whose revenue figures end with a "T"..

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Industrial Espionage is Alive and Well and Kicking in Multi $Trillion Corporations/Corpses. *

        " Yes, they will take insight with them, but I think that game has been long dealt with. I suspect these guys have only been given enough data to develop as required, but not much more exactly because of the well established revolving doors between companies."

        I suspect you are wrong. These are elite engineers at the top of their game - its unspoken that they take the designs and skills from one employer to another - trade secrets be damned.

        No-one tells the lawyers unless someone does something stupid like trying to walk out with a load of spec's on a USB drive.

        It probably helps that these things are so damn complex that only the general design principles, troubleshooting skills and years of learning "on the job" are the portable bits. It's not like they can hold entire chip designs in their head, much below the 10,000 ft view. Albeit lock them in a room with at team for 6 months and they could probably re-generate the blueprints for the M1. But nerds being nerds they wouldn't. The'd build an M5 or M6 instead with all the previous learning incorporated.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Practical Monopolies are Alive and Well and Kick in with $Trillion ... until they virtually aren’t

        I'm fully open to accepting the notion that industrial espionage is this particular revolving door case concerning Apple and Microsoft is replaced by a welcoming open door policy in the best interests of Western national security considerations ..... and as much has already been said elsewhere on El Reg earlier today ....... https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2022/01/14/files_on_demand_macos/#c_4396148

        There is a lot of growing competition out there which would just love to at least emulate and ideally to surpass the likes of an Apple or a Microsoft, and especially so in the mysterious and exotic and enigmatic and erotic East, and close leading collaboration at home rather than remote conflict and physical division may very well be a novel methodology being tried to try and guarantee further outstanding success in the future .... and pump up stock and equity market valuations to even crazier heights.

  4. druck Silver badge

    ARM on Azure and...

    Could the next X-Box be Series A for ARM?

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: ARM on Azure and...

      No reason why it couldn't be. For example A64FX from Fujitsu (that they're replacing SPARC64 with in HPC) is a good example that performance is not an issue. GPU is where the heavy lifting to great extent happens in a console, so the CPU architecture is less important as long as you got enough PCIe lanes.

      Would make it bit more cumbersome for the PC-ports of the games tho compared to fairly effortless port.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: ARM on Azure and...

        Also, Apple silicon and Apple's graphics API, Metal, have been designed hand in hand. Metal uses a deferred tile-based renderer which makes it different to DirectX, suggesting ports might not be straight forward. That said, smarter developers might be looking forward to Apple's upcoming AR VR products, which will use Metal on Apple Silicon.

  5. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

    I wonder if people are missing the point with the poaching of these Apple silicon people.

    Sure, Apple have some smart hardware people. But Apple's big advantage is that it owns and controls the entire stack: That's how it's getting maximum performance out of its kit.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Apart from the Intel era when they somehow managed to be really bad at dealing with heat generated by components so the CPU ended up throttled to within an inch of its life.

      After failing to improve thermal design in a decade and a half, the problem solved itself when they changed to a new architecture.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That depends on the product placement, around portability and operational noise.

        Mac notebooks are form factor first devices, PC laptops compromise on this which permit less throttling. (Though note that the throttling is only on sustained work loads, for typical bursty workloads, the performance benefit of a higher specd Intel processor comes through.)

        For eg another form factor first device is the mobile phone and the situation is reversed, sustained workloads perform rather poorly on android devices (both due to OS and SoC differences).

        Obviously with the M1 migration, the entire portable Apple range are now both form factor and performance first devices.

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I wonder if chip designers just get itchy feet in a job quite quickly and want to move on to something new, or perhaps they didn't enjoy the work environment at Apple? I have had jobs where the money was good but I just didn't like the bosses and other people I had to work with, so left even though I was taking a pay cut by doing so. Although for these chip architects I am sure the money would be good no matter where they were working.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think there is a wider panic around M1, and incumbent processor suppliers were lazy (meh it's good enough).

      Apple has proven better is possible.

      That means customers (MS, Google, Amazon) are looking elsewhere, and suppliers (Intel, Qualcomm) are also trying to rapidly correct the situation to placate said customers.

      The economics also mean 1W power saving in a data center starts sounding better than say two ARM versus 1 x64.

      So lot of money chasing these folk. Right now the best in the market is at Apple, so it isn't surprising they make headlines riding on the m1 coattails. If someone moved from AMD to ARM the headline gets less ad money.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Is that true though, or is it more of an Intel failing thing? I've not followed closely but do people complain about Qualcomm these days. Last I saw was that AMD are back to their glory days whipping Intel butt.

        All suggests a single place of failure to me....

        1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

          The problem with Qualcom in the mobile arena is you can't buy just the CPU. You have to buy their radio (3G/4G/5G) chipset too.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      I think it is a combination of factors

      One, the most exciting work on Apple Silicon was making it happen at all, now they are improving it but that's not as exciting.

      Two, if a company is looking to build really high performing ARM chips, where better to look for people than Apple who proved to everyone that ARM can go toe to toe with x86? If the company hiring is doing something big for a clean slate launch, like the Apple Silicon project was, they may find that more exciting than rolling out A16 and M2, then A17 and M3, and so on.

      I'm sure Apple has some other interesting stuff happening like the rumored launch of AR stuff, a car etc. but they are hardly the only ones working on such stuff so if you want to design chips for those you have even more opportunity than you do designing ARM cores for PCs or servers.

  7. EricB123

    These Things Take Time

    When in EE grad school, I majored in custom chip design. No interested employer in my knowledge when I graduated, of course. Now, a few decades later, custom chip design expertise is hot. I guess it's all in the timing.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: These Things Take Time

      I was lucky to get into custom chip design straight out of uni. After 10 years there I took redundancy and there were surprisingly few jobs in the field then. Largely because its so expensive to use a custom chip designer. One of the CAD stations I worked on cost more than my 10 years employment cost the company.

  8. Clausewitz 4.0
    Devil

    Talent takeover

    Shows a certain pattern of aggressive talent takeover between companies.

    Until companies do not hijack chip designers in the trunk of cars, it seems all will be fine.

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