There’s no doubt that AMD lost quite a lot of brain power over the past couple of years. Ever since the company announced the acquisition of ATI, former senior management did its best to… screw things up. Lead by Hector Jesus Ruiz and latter Dirk Meyer, the company’s senior executives created a culture where brilliant minds were tossed out, and mediocrity was allowed to flourish.
Even though the remnants of the former management still remain with the company in the shape of current Chief Financial Officer, the new CEO Rory Read and "fresh blood" such as Lisa Su or Mark Papermaster are starting to rebuild the company from the ground up. Admitting mistakes of the past, understanding the problem and then working on resolving it are major steps to go forward.
Thus, it is of no surprise to hear that AMD has poached one of greatest talents in the industry from no other than Apple Inc. While Apple in the past used AMD as a talent freeway, and heavily relied on people such as Raja Koduri (Graphics) and Jim Keller (CPU / SoC), AMD announced its first high-level engineering hire in quite some time.
Today, AMD announced that Jim Keller is rejoining the company and will serve as Corporate Vice President and Chief Architect for CPU Cores reporting directly to Mark Papermaster, Chief Technology Officer. Jim designed and co-authored a lot of CPU designs over the past three decades, starting with Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and VAX 8800, one of world’s first dual-processor ‘microcomputers’. After that project, Jim worked on CPU architectures we know today as Alpha 21164 and 21264 processors. Both processors changed the game for semiconductor industry for good, sending CISC architecture into oblivion.
Following his stint at DEC, Jim worked in AMD as a Senior Fellow on K7 and K8 architectures, including co-authoring the AMD64, more known as the x86-64 instruction set which today is being used on all major 64-bit processors from AMD and Intel.
Following stints in BroadCom and PA Semi, Jim ended up in Apple, where he lead "a small team" to create SoC designs for Apple, more known as the A4, A5 and the A5x. Based on our conversations with the insider sources, Jim also worked on the A6 SoC, the next-generation chip which will power Apple’s products in 2013 onward. Our sources also state that the ‘silicon renaissance’ is over at Apple, and the brightest minds are shopping around to see where they could land.
When it comes to Jim’s new involvement in AMD, there will be at least two years before his work starts appearing with the AMD processors and it is to our belief that Jim will lead the development of high-performance CPU cores which are to be embedded into hybrid x86/ARM/GPU processors in 2014-2016 timeframe (AMD’s current public roadmap practically ends after 2013/2014, which was confirmed to us by highly ranked sources). It will be interesting to follow what other high-level announcements AMD has in store, but it is obvious that the company decided to act on lack of talent and bring in ‘the big minds’.