AMD Taps iPhone, iPad Chip Designer To Head Processor Unit


AMD announced Wednesday that it has tapped Jim Keller, the former Apple architect who spearheaded the development of mobile chips for the iPhone and iPad, as the new lead of its CPU unit.

Keller, whose official title at AMD is corporate vice president and chief architect of microprocessor cores, had a previous stint with AMD years ago, when he played "an instrumental role on the design team responsible for the groundbreaking AMD Athlon 64 and AMD Opteron 64 processors," the chip-maker said in a statement Wednesday.

In his new role, Keller will report directly to Mark Papermaster, AMD’s chief technology officer and senior vice president of technology and engineering. He could also help AMD nab some share in the lucrative mobile chip market, a space that is currently dominated by x86-based chip-makers like Qualcomm, Samsung and Texas Instruments.

[Related: AMD Sees Q2 Revenue Slide, Says Llano Sales In Channel Are Down]

"Jim is one of the most widely respected and sought-after innovators in the industry and a very strong addition to our engineering team," Papermaster said in a statement. "He has contributed to processing innovations that have delivered tremendous compute advances for millions of people all over the world, and we expect that his innovative spirit, low-power design expertise, creativity and drive for success will help us shape our future and fuel our growth."

Keller was previously a director of Apple’s platform architecture group, responsible for designing the processors used in its popular iPad, iPhone and iPod mobile devices. He joined Apple in 2008, through the Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s acquisition of semiconductor design firm P.A. Semi.

AMD said Keller will oversee all design efforts related to high-performance and low-power cores that will serve as the foundation for the company’s future chip offerings. Keller will also become a driving force behind rolling out AMD’s new "ambidextrous strategy," or its efforts to blend its traditional x86-based architectures with other chip technologies.

"AMD's strategy capitalizes on the convergence of technologies and devices that will define the next era of the industry," said Rory Read, AMD CEO, in a February statement explaining the new strategy. "The trends around consumerization, the Cloud and convergence will only grow stronger in the coming years. AMD has a unique opportunity to take advantage of this key industry inflection point."

Though AMD has not specifically said what types of new technologies it will be embracing as part of its ambidextrous mantra, it does show that the chip-maker is transitioning away from its exclusive reliance on x86-based architectures.

In June, AMD announced it was licensing TrustZone, a security technology from rival chip-maker ARM, to use in its upcoming APUs. The move represented the melding of two long-time competing chip architectures -- ARM and x86 -- and re-emphasized AMD’s focus on new chip technologies, such as those found in mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.

PUBLISHED AUG. 1, 2012