Jim Keller

AMD wants a piece of Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and that’s why they recently hired Jim Keller, the former lead from Apple’s chip design team.

Keller joined Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s team back in 2008 during the acquisition of a startup, celled PA Semi. Keller was the architect behind AMD’s Athlon line of processors. Back in 2005 and 2006, they scared Intel a bit with their Athlon processors.  This news is a good thing for AMD, considering that they have seen a lot of their talent leave since Dirk Meyer left and was subsequently replaced with Rory Read(former IBM and Lenovo executive).

Keller’s original job was to essentially design the A4 and A5 processors for Apple’s iPad and iPhone. Prior to that Apple relied on Samsung to make their processors, but, right now they’re in a tough legal battle.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) wrote a check in 2008 for $278 million for PA Semi. They also made a lot of strategic choices during the process. In the last three years, they stopped using Intel, in favor of the lower-powered ARM architecture that’s primarily for mobile devices. This leaves Intel still struggling in the mobile market.

Apple soon became a master of designing their own chips, although they let Samsung continue to build them.  They also continued to acquire more ARM chip designers. Two years ago, they bought up Intrinsity, a design company for semiconductors.

Soon afterward Dan Dobberpuhl, the founder of PA, left the company only to join Agnilux (another chip company), which later on was purchased by Google.

Patrick Moorhead (former vice president of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (NYSE:AMD), former president of Moor Insights) recently said that,  “Jim looks like a good pickup for AMD. Undoubtedly he will be focused on architecting the lowest power cores at a given performance level. Additionally, Keller knows the mobile SOC [system-on-a-chip] game better than most anyone in the industry, which will help AMD as those design principles need to come to PC processors.”

Mark Papermaster will oversee Keller’s work as his new boss. Interestingly enough, Papermaster also has a history with Apple, as he used to be senior Vice President of the iPhone engineering team. He left two years ago after company issues. He worked with Cisco Systems before joining AMD’s team last year.

It sounds like Apple is trying to realign their team with the right people. In the next few years, I wonder if Apple will eventually may take over all operations with their own in-house team, instead of hiring individuals and other companies to design their technologies.