Silicon Designers Fleeing Apple?

The Six Five team discusses Silicon designers and are they fleeing Apple?

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Patrick Moorhead: So, another month, another big article of a designer, a very experienced designer leaving Apple. This isn’t the first one. In fact, I can go all the way back to Gerard Williams leaving Apple three years ago. He left for Nuvia. Qualcomm bought Nuvia. Apple sued Gerard. So, it’s pretty ugly, and I worked in and around the chip industry for over 30 years. This type of moving rockstar from company to company is a real thing, but when it becomes a trend, so you have Gerard leaving, you have in this case Mike Filippo, who I actually knew when I worked at AMD, and he went to ARM, and he went to Apple. He worked at Intel. Once you see multiple lines connecting, there might be something going on. And Intel even had an announcement that a chief architect was moving back to Intel from Apple.

There is no doubt that the M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max is an impressive chip in terms of performance per watt, but I’m wondering. What is it about the culture that is driving people away? Or is this just getting money whipped? Money whipping engineers or something like this? Or does Apple have a toxic culture in semiconductors?

Daniel Newman: Yeah. It’s an interesting question, Pat, because you’ve got two forces at play. You’ve got new opportunities, right? People that have the chance to maybe step out and become a big player elsewhere, maybe get more visibility. You know more and more of these big tech players are all going to start their own silicon design and they’re going to be expanding an offering and get a little lost inside of Apple. That’s a possibility. Of course, other possibilities are you’re getting absolutely the toxicity that can be known in these companies. Look, you can’t deny the success that Apple’s having with its M architecture. Just can’t.

You and I I think both kind of want to be bearish on it for a lot of reasons, but at the same time they’ve done pretty well, and the machines are working pretty well. But Apple’s not the kind of company where many people ever get to emerge and become visible, and so there are some interesting places like a Microsoft to land right now, where you know there’s going to be some pretty big investment made and there’s a chance to really rise. The next Panos of the world and others that have really risen up and become heavily visible for being part of driving the future.

Having said that, Pat, listen. I think we both know people at Apple and everybody I’ve ever talked to will talk about what a great company it is, but will concurrently tell you what a tough place it is to be. So, there’s movement in industries. All things aside, Pat, the only thing that we can really count on as being constant is change, so I look at these changes and I say, “Best of luck. Hope where you go next you’re going to be really successful and drive some important and meaningful innovation.” But yeah, there might be some challenges at Apple, but right now there’s nothing in the product to indicate this is going to be a problem for them yet.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah. And by the way, what I put on the screen here is Mike Filippo’s LinkedIn, and you can see the companies he’s worked for and the environments even. I, again, like I said, I met Mike at AMD, but I got a lot more time with him when he was the lead CPU architect at ARM. By the way, Ian makes another good comment is they’re looking for their next challenge, right? In a way, that was kind of Gerard’s thing when he left, so the architecture for the M1, the M1 Pro, and the M1 Max was done, and I won’t speak for him, but potentially that was his time to exit the company. When I pull these people aside though, they tell me about a culture that’s hard to get their heads around and feel comfortable with.

But undoubtedly a successful machine. I’ve never seen a machine that’s had so much success without having a giant mistake. I guess when you’re a $3 trillion company you can do that. You can have multiple competing teams. By the way, like Intel used to have, right? Working on literally the same market space and then it was very kind of Darwinian. The best design and the best team won. There was a major coup years ago at Intel when the team in Israel had the Core architecture, and the team in Santa Clara had what was called the NetBurst architecture, and Core architecture won, NetBurst got discontinued, and a lot of those folks ended up leaving the company.

Author Information

Daniel is the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise.

From the leading edge of AI to global technology policy, Daniel makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology investments. Daniel is a top 5 globally ranked industry analyst and his ideas are regularly cited or shared in television appearances by CNBC, Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal and hundreds of other sites around the world.

A 7x Best-Selling Author including his most recent book “Human/Machine.” Daniel is also a Forbes and MarketWatch (Dow Jones) contributor.

An MBA and Former Graduate Adjunct Faculty, Daniel is an Austin Texas transplant after 40 years in Chicago. His speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


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