It is no secret that Apple is one of key places where former AMD executives and engineers leave for. Over the course of past several years, we've seen quite a fair share of big names landing at the fruity company.
The amount of people that left AMD for Apple is small in overall headcount but as Intel's ill-fated $4.5 billion project proved, you need key talents in order to design the incredibly complex silicon-copper-hafnium structures which make for processors of today.
Furthermore, over the course of past couple of years, we've seen Apple becoming more aggressive in design of its proprietary silicon and in order to control its supply chain. Right now, Apple is in a bit of squeeze with 3rd party chips being in short supply (such as Qualcomm's baseband chips) and the company wants to change that. In order to change the reliance on 3rd parties, you need the very best engineers money can buy and if we take a look at a number of key AMD personnel that left the company (or were pushed out), there is no doubt that Apple is cooking something big in its labs.
Both Raja Koduri (CTO, AMD) and Bob Drebin (CTO, AMD) left AMD/ATI quite some time ago, and are now serving senior executive roles (Raja is now CTO at Apple, while Bob serves as Senior Director). The most recent addition is not the one without a mark – John Bruno carries quite a long history of roles first at ATI, then at AMD. John was the driving force behind ATI's entrance into the chip business, and his last project at AMD was the 2012 Comal platform, with the key part being the Trinity APU.
Sadly for John, AMD's senior management obviously saw no use of a man whose projects generated vast amounts of revenue for AMD. It is no secret that a lot of industry insiders heavily criticize the (in)competency of the current Chief Financial Officer, who according to the sources "could not see a golden geese even if he tripped on it". This is a direct quote from a person that generated several billion dollars in revenue to AMD, and was swiftly dropped after Rory Read took office.
Forgetting what's going on with AMD, we view the hiring of John Bruno as a key sign that the crew that left AMD in 2009 now has quite a lot of say inside the walls of Cupertino HQ – and hiring the very best people is something they will do. With John Bruno, Apple perhaps gained one last piece of the puzzle needed to drive the development of its large-scale processors for powerful processors.
Now for the obligatory part to Apple-focused blogs that read news like these – hiring John Bruno does not mean Apple will come with desktop chips in 2013, because it takes anywhere between 3-5 years to bring a completely new platform to market. Thus, Apple will be using Intel-AMD-NVIDIA-Qualcomm parts in foreseeable future, but the core team that brought miracles with a very tight budget is now in place. And Apple has enough R&D budget to create everything Raja, Bob, John wanted to create, but were not allowed to.
We wonder, will Carrell Killebrew, the ideological father of Eyefinity and numerous GPU architectures (both at ATI and AMD) be the next in line to be 'acquired' by Apple?