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Microsoft poaches Apple chip expert for custom silicon

Cupertino loses second chip guru


Apple's having a problem retaining top chip personnel, with the latest defection being CPU architect Mike Filippo going to Microsoft.

As chief compute architect at Microsoft, Filippo will design server chips for the software giant, according to media reports. Earlier this month Jeff Wilcox, Apple's Arm-based M1 CPU lead, also jumped ship back to his old employers at Intel.

Filippo, an expert in ARM architecture, worked with Apple from May 2019 until December last year, according to his LinkedIn page. He joined a year prior to Apple's announcement in June 2020 that it was transitioning to PC chips based on ARM architecture.

Microsoft already is developing custom chips, but the addition of Filippo points to the company heading in the direction of ARM architecture for servers in its data centers. The company this week posted a job opening for an ARM CPU designer in the group responsible for Azure hardware and Xbox products.

Prior to Apple, Filippo was responsible for the development of the Neoverse V1, ARM's server CPU, which has been used in Amazon's Graviton server chips.

Cloud companies with mega data centers are developing custom silicon for servers, in addition to offerings with industry standard x86 chips and GPUs. Google has developed custom AI chips to offer analytics and predictive servers through its cloud offerings.

Companies poaching chip experts has been common practice for decades, with Google and Amazon among those joining the fray to win over scarce design talent.

A bunch of Apple executives, including Gerard Williams - the chief architect of the iPad and iPhone's silicon - quit the company to find Nuvia, which was then acquired by Qualcomm for the talent. Mark Papermaster made the rounds of IBM, Apple, and Cisco, before becoming CTO at AMD, where he hired ex-Apple employees such as Jim Keller to create the Zen architecture. ®

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