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Custom processors may come to Pixel as Google hires ex-Apple chip designer

Posted: , by Michael H.

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Custom processors may come to Pixel as Google hires ex-Apple chip designer
Google has been slowly expanding its hardware division, most notably with the new line of Pixel phones. Now, it appears as though Google has interest in designing its own custom silicon chips with the new hire of an Apple alumn who worked as a processor designer at Apple for eight years. 

Manu Gulati announced on LinkedIn that he had been hired by Google to be the "lead SoC architect" for the company. Gulati has a long work history in processors, having previously been employed by AMD and Broadcom before spending eight years with Apple. According to reports, Google is looking to add more chip designers to the team as well. 

While with Apple, Gulati was reportedly "instrumental" in designing the various chips used in iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs. It is unclear exactly what Google's plans might be, but it's not hard to assume Gulati will be working on custom processors for Pixel phones, but there is also potential for work on Chromebooks, Android TVs, and perhaps even Android Wear smartwatches. 

At the very least, the hire implies that Google wants to have more of the top-to-bottom control over the Android experience, or at least the Google experience, similar to what Apple can do with iOS and iPhones or iPads. Of course, it's a bit too late for this to make any impact on the upcoming 2017 versions of the Google Pixel phones, but we may see the effects of this in 2018. 

source: Variety & LinkedIn

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posted on 13 Jun 2017, 13:18 1

1. vasra (Posts: 37; Member since: 27 Feb 2014)

Slim pickings. Should have gotten Keller, he's da man.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 13:26

4. Myphoneisonfire (Posts: 355; Member since: 05 Sep 2016)

Expected launch should be in 2018 or 19

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 15:45 4

11. vincelongman (Posts: 5068; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

Custom cores take time
Samsung's M1 core took them 3 years to design

Maybe we'll see a Google SoC with stock cores next year, but don't expect custom cores until at least 2019, most likely 2020 or 2021

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 13:22 3

2. Finalflash (Posts: 3527; Member since: 23 Jul 2013)

Can't hurt, need more competition.

posted on 14 Jun 2017, 13:37

25. Sidewinder (Posts: 513; Member since: 15 Jan 2015)

Yeah otherwise qualcomm will become the Intel of the mobile soc space.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 13:26 1

3. NoAllegiance (Posts: 401; Member since: 21 Mar 2016)

Hmm, I was wondering when chip makers would do what Motorola did with the Moto X. The phone with the custom Qualcomm SoC with a natural language processor and contextual awareness processor.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 13:50 1

5. ullokey (Posts: 88; Member since: 28 Jul 2015)

What Google did ;)
I logged in to type this but beat me to it

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 14:03

6. Khyron (Posts: 298; Member since: 28 Sep 2015)

but Moto x at that time suffered from bad performance

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 14:13

7. Nexus4lifes (Posts: 208; Member since: 13 Feb 2014)

i hope Google is really investing in this approach with conviction. I would love to see a true google phone (like the apple iphone). Most of their efforts especially in the hardware side seem to lack conviction like nexus devices, pixel chromebooks, pixel c tablet which ended abruptly.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 15:10 1

8. trojan_horse (Posts: 4934; Member since: 06 May 2016)

Google slowly turning into a full-fledged hadware Company too... I see.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 15:13 2

9. Martin_Cooper (Posts: 1615; Member since: 30 Jul 2013)

Having your own cpu and OS is the future. Pixel with custom google CPU and clean Android is going to be epicly good.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 15:44

10. davthom123 (Posts: 89; Member since: 02 Mar 2015)

the biggest advantage apple have over android devices is in its custom built chips and Samsung seem to hold themselves back in regards to their exynos chip in order to keep it in line with their Qualcomm alternative phones

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 15:52 3

12. vincelongman (Posts: 5068; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

Nope, Samsung isn't holding back at all
In fact they've been trying in vain to catch up with Qualcomm's GPUs
And Qualcomm have caught this year in terms of CPU

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 16:32 1

13. AmashAziz (Posts: 1479; Member since: 30 Jun 2014)

Samsung has been using Mali GPUs. So it isn't trying in that regard.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 17:37 1

15. vincelongman (Posts: 5068; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

They used to use PowerVR GPUs but switched to Mali GPUs

Even Apple's A10 with PowerVR, its larger die size and superior 16FF+ process couldn't match the 820's GPU in sustained GPU performance

Qaulcomm just nailed it with their Adreno 500 series (unlike their Kyro architecture, their CPU team really let them down last year)

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 18:26

18. AmashAziz (Posts: 1479; Member since: 30 Jun 2014)

The Adreno 530 was better than A10 in sustained performance. But lost in peak perf.

I hope the 8XT-Plus in the A11 would fare better in this regard

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 18:58 2

19. vincelongman (Posts: 5068; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

Yep, exactly, hence the Adreno 530 is superior overall (i.e. GPU architecture)
Qualcomm could have better peak performance, but they focused on sustained performance and used lower clocks

If you flash a custom kernel and set the 530's clocks to ~750MHz, it would have the better peak performance as the A10, but also similar throttling

IMO the A11 probably will have better sustained performance than the 540
The 540 is just an optimized version of the 530, they didn't make it any wider
Next year's GPU comparison will be more interesting, with likely Adreno 600 vs a more custom GPU from Apple

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 17:00

14. Ninetysix (Posts: 2671; Member since: 08 Oct 2012)

If you're going to steal an idea, you might as well steal the people who were developing it, too.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 17:59 1

16. Arch_Fiend (Posts: 3371; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)

What are they stealing?

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 18:24 1

17. AmashAziz (Posts: 1479; Member since: 30 Jun 2014)

His brain

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 22:19 1

22. NoToFanboys (Posts: 2975; Member since: 03 Oct 2015)

Was there a brain to steal?

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 20:54 2

21. vincelongman (Posts: 5068; Member since: 10 Feb 2013)

TIL Apple was the first to make their own custom microarchitecture

Maybe Apple should also steal engineers from Intel, AMD and IBM
Oh wait

posted on 14 Jun 2017, 03:57 1

24. tedkord (Posts: 14114; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

Exactly what I said in the article about Apple confirming a self driving car and poaching Tesla engineers.

posted on 13 Jun 2017, 19:58

20. Greenmule (Posts: 57; Member since: 24 Apr 2017)

People on other forums are speculating that this guy will spell the end for rooting and unlocked bootloaders.. And that Goolge has lost it's way from the original Nexus/Google Pixel (not VZW Pixel).

Is google beginning to close the system and become the Borg of cellular?

Google phone, Google browser, Google email, Google youtube, Google advertising policy all brought to you by the Google network.

posted on 14 Jun 2017, 01:27

23. jpkelly05 (Posts: 105; Member since: 13 Nov 2012)

I am guessing 3 to 5 years. You have to put into perspective, this will be Googles future probably. And if they are building SoC's, I beg to differ, this could go further that just phones or personal devices. Google is involved in so much more that we are not privy to have knowlege, for good reasons and bad. Me personally, I hope the make a quantum computer soon that works at normal temps. But ya, little to early for that tech to mature. Anyways, it takes time to build a team to come up with a new product, and many things come into mind for me that take time or can change time lines: conduct cost analysis, manufacturing, software development, hardware development, training, quality assurance, media control, and investor confidence, product doesn't survive R&D or customer needs/expectations. All that is being said here is that it is too early to make any sort of conclusion as to what Google is working on. This would have been a fun poll to see what most people think will be built.

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