Like Google, Apple too will now have engineers in Bengaluru working on its chip design initiatives.
This follows Apple’s $1-billion acquisition of Intel’s smartphone modem business in July. Sources told TOI that nearly 160 Intel engineers in Bengaluru are part of this business, and will move to Apple to join its global hardware engineering team.
Bengaluru is one of the world’s biggest chip design hubs. Google this year has been building a significant chip design base in the city. It has hired at least 80 – engineers from companies like Intel, Qualcomm and Nvidia. Rajat Bhargava, who previously held senior positions in Broadcom and Intel, leads the team.
Internet firms like Google, Facebook and Amazon, as also Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft are all accelerating efforts to design chips for functions critical to them, not wanting to depend entirely on traditional semiconductor specialists like Intel, Qualcomm, AMD and Nvidia. An email sent to Apple and Intel didn’t elicit a response till the time of going to press.
Globally, around 2,200 Intel employees will join Apple, along with intellectual property, equipment and leases. Soon after the acquisition, Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, talked about how Apple was excited to have so many excellent engineers join its growing cellular technologies group, “and know they’ll thrive in Apple’s creative and dynamic environment.”
For years, Apple has been developing chips inhouse to power its iPads and Macs. Apple’s first processor A4 was designed inhouse in 2010. From then on, it has designed a series of chips for processing data faster, and for better photos, including the A13 Bionic chip that powers the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The chip is built for machine learning, with a faster neural engine for real-time photo and video analysis.
Prakash Sangam, founder and principal in US-based Tantra Analyst, a research and consultancy firm specialising in 5G, IoT and AI, said acquiring the Bengaluru team helps Apple to easily start using Intel’s 4G and 3G modems, as the Bengaluru team worked on it.
“Apple has worked with this team for launching earlier iPhones that were based on Intel modems (iPhone 11, X, XS, XR, select iPhone 8, and 7). Gives a head start to Apple in developing 5G modem. Remember Intel was far along the way in developing 5G modem, and I am sure some of the Intel Bengaluru engineers were involved in that effort,” he said.
Sangam said that since Apple has worked with the Intel Bengaluru team, their move into Apple should be almost seamless, and there would be no learning curve.
In the past couple of years, Apple has also been manufacturing iPhones in India. It first started assembling the low-cost iPhone SE at its Taiwanese supplier Wistron’s facility in Bengaluru. More recently, it started production of iPhone XR at the Foxconn facility in Chennai.―Times of India