Apple's lead chip designer leaves the company after 9 years

Apple's lead chip designer leaves the company after 9 years
One of the main aspects in which Apple’s iPhones traditionally outperform their Android competitors is processing power. While some of the performance can be attributed to iOS, most of it is thanks to Apple’s in-house designed A-series chips. The latest one, the A12X that can be found in the new iPad Pro models, is one of the most powerful mobile chips ever made.

Leading the development of those chips ever since the A7 has been Gerard Williams III, Apple’s senior director in platform architecture. We used “has been” since reports are coming from CNET that Mr. Williams is no longer working at Cupertino. According to the sources, he left Apple in February after spending the last 9 years there. His LinkedIn page still says he’s an Apple employee, however.

Before beginning work at Apple, Gerard spent 12 years working for Arm, the company which to this day designs the processor cores that can be found on chips from Samsung, Qualcomm, HiSilicon, MediaTek and Apple. He was responsible not only for the development of the CPU part of the chip but for the overall design of Apple’s SoC, which combines all the different processing units needed to run an iPhone. Considering that everything from the iPhone's cameras to its gaming performance is dependent on the chips that are a direct result of Gerard's work, it's safe to say his role at Apple is very important.

It’s not clear yet why Williams left Apple and if he’s going to join the ranks of some of the aforementioned chip makers. However, it’s likely that he was poached by one of Apple’s competitors. If that was the case, we might see a significant quality bump in CPUs from whichever company got him but not before 2020 at the very least.

At Apple, his work has probably spread not only to the upcoming A13 chip, which should power the 2019 iPhones but likely next year’s A14 SoC as well. This means Apple has some time to find a suitable replacement but people with Williams’ experience are few and far between.

It will be interesting to follow the aftermath of this departure as it might have significant consequences on the mobile market in the long term. It’s unusual for Apple to lose such a high-ranking employee, which means there might be personal reasons behind the decision. They could be either family related or disagreements between Williams and the rest of Apple’s executives.

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14 Comments

1. drunkenjay

Posts: 1697; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

they probably told him to make chips for the new apple credit card and realized apple is a sellout.

3. DolmioMan

Posts: 335; Member since: Jan 08, 2018

How does that make Apple a sellout? Partnering with a bank to make a more modern credit card is a lot different to being a sellout.

6. drunkenjay

Posts: 1697; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

making different things other than making better products themselves like the macbook pro or any other products besides a card an a tv streaming service is a sell out move. its also making more people into debt by making lucrative services in their cards. they are moving away from products and is just becoming a services braand.

8. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Ahh so diversification whilst taking advantage of their massive customer base is called selling out. I'm no fan of Apple but this is a smart move and certainly not a sellout. I look at it like GM and their finance arm that offers financing for their vehicles.

11. TBomb

Posts: 1572; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

I mean, diversifying to take advantage of a massive customer base is selling out. If I'm an acoustic guitar player and singer and a record label tells me I need to start making children's music to make it big - and I do it - that's selling out. The difference between a making a credit card when you've been selling technology products for decades and GM with their Financial arm is that GM's financial arm is only to help people afford their products. You can't go to GM Finance (or whatever the real name is) and ask for help financing a Toyota, a smartphone, TV, etc. So I mean, it's a littler different. I will agree with you though that I don't consider it "selling out" - but it sits pretty similarly in my head. I would feel differently about it if Apple offered something along the lines of points that can be used only for Apple things. Think of an airline/hotel credit card - you get miles/points to use with them... Not just some measly cash back while the brand hopes you don't pay on time.

13. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

By your logic Samsung should stop making home appliances, shipbuilding and all the other stuff they make and concentrate on phones. That's not how business works. Your logic would also dictate that say Apple somehow stumbled on the cure for cancer, they shouldn't enter the pharmaceutical industry. If you have over 1 billion people with your software and hardware in their hands every day, simple logic would tell you to take advantage of that access through different services and products. Apple aren't leaving the hardware business, they're expanding their income stream based on their existing products. That is nowhere selling out.

14. TBomb

Posts: 1572; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Diversifying a portfolio can be beneficial to business - hence the term conglomerate. There is a big difference between a company expanding their hardware/services and starting a general consumer banking subsidiary. i also agreed with you - I don't consider Apple to be "selling out". However, the general credit card business is a scummy business and it sits sour with me. The odds of Apple finding a cure for cancer is very slim and on a completely different level than starting a credit card without any real USP - so i'm going to ignore that comment.

2. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

It would be ironic if he ended up at Qualcomm.

7. frequency

Posts: 110; Member since: Aug 13, 2013

Intel and Huawei are also possible

12. vincelongman

Posts: 5724; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Probably Intel Intel has been on a hiring spree recently due to AMD catching with them in CPU and Nvidia completely dominating the growing GPU market They've poached heaps of top senior engineers and managers from AMD, Nvidia, Qualcomm and Apple

4. DolmioMan

Posts: 335; Member since: Jan 08, 2018

He’s already designed up to the A18 if they keep the naming scheme so no biggie, Apple have a long time to replace him.

5. cncrim

Posts: 1588; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

Everyone is replaceable, Apple will be just fine.

9. pogba

Posts: 112; Member since: Jun 13, 2018

Not Steve Jobs.

10. darkkjedii

Posts: 31313; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Peaceboy told me he's going to Qualcomm.

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