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Apple hires key ARM engineer in race to ditch Intel

Apple hires key ARM engineer in race to ditch Intel

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Apple has poached a top engineer from ARM as it seeks to put custom processors inside Macs in the coming years. As spotted by Bloomberg, Apple has hired Mike Filippo, the lead architect on a number of ARM CPU designs, including the Cortex-A76, which was recently featured inside Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855 chip.

Bloomberg speculates that Filippo could be filling a key spot at Apple that was left empty after Gerard Williams III, the head architect for Apple’s processors, departed the company earlier this year. Apple hasn’t commented on the hire or what Filippo will be doing, but ARM confirmed to Bloomberg that he left. A LinkedIn account for Filippo lists him as working at Apple as an “architect” since May. Prior to that, he held similar roles at Intel and AMD:

When the Cortex-A76 was announced last year, Filippo told CNET that he thought the chip design would “do well against Apple.” Apple has for years made smartphone and tablet processors that far outperform chips from rivals, designing its own cores instead of licensing them from ARM, and that’s remained true even with ARM’s latest designs.

ARM and Apple aren’t entirely in competition, though. While Apple doesn’t explicitly use ARM’s processor designs — as other companies, like Qualcomm, do — it does rely on ARM’s instruction set when designing processors of its own. Bringing in someone who’s deeply familiar with creating chip designs based on ARM’s tech is a natural step as Apple tries to further what its own chips can do.

With Apple’s chips already attaining a commanding lead in smartphones and tablets, the company is said to be looking toward putting them inside of Macs within the next couple years. It would be a huge shift for Apple’s laptops and desktops that could require a lot of rewritten code. But it would allow Apple to untether itself from Intel, which has been slow in recent years to push ahead with processor advancements, and achieve an even tighter integration of the hardware and software within its devices.