Apple, Intel take the offensive in SoC space

Article By : Rick Merritt

Apple has hired a top Qualcomm engineer for its SoC efforts, while Intel has boosted its line of unlocked CPUs targeting high-end gamers to compete with AMD.

Apple and Intel are heating up the competition in semiconductors as both companies make major moves to keep ahead of the game. Apple has hired a top Qualcomm engineer manager who is expected to lead its SoC efforts. Intel, on the other hand, announced a new high-end PC processor family, leapfrogging renewed competition from Advanced Micro Devices.

Apple hired Esin Terzioglu, a vice president of engineering who led the central engineering group at Qualcomm’s semiconductor division for the last eight years. For its part, Intel announced its Core i9 Extreme Edition family, including an 18 core, 36 thread chip that leapfrogs AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper, a 16 core, 32 thread chip announced in mid-May.

Terzioglu announced his move in a LinkedIn post made public in a tweet by Neil Shah, an analyst for Counterpoint Research. Terzioglu has not updated his LinkedIn page to provide his new title at Apple, but given his experience observers expect he will lead Apple’s semiconductor efforts, perhaps launching a foray into creating the company’s own baseband processor.

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Figure 1: Apple hired Esin Terzioglu, a Qualcomm executive, amidst its legal battle with Qualcomm over royalties and cellular communictions patents.

The move comes at a time when Apple is locked in a major legal battle with Qualcomm over as much as $2 billion in annual royalties it charges for its cellular communications patents. Last year, Apple started using baseband chips from Intel.

Apple filed suit against Qualcomm in January, claiming that Qualcomm’s royalties were exorbitant and the chip vendor pressured it to remain silent. In a countersuit filed in April, Qualcomm said that it paid Apple to refrain from asserting patents and revealed that it got royalty payments for iPhones and iPads through Apple’s contract manufacturers including Compal, Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron.

Before joining Qualcomm, Terzioglu was CTO and CFO of startup Novelics, acquired by Mentor Graphics. Previously, he served six years as a principal scientist in the office of the CTO at Broadcom. He holds a doctorate and masters in electrical engineering from Stanford.

“It does seem Apple increasingly wants to design almost everything in the iPhone,” said Mike Demler, an analyst with the Linley Group. “If you look at its patent filings its obvious Apple has been doing a lot of work in baseband radios for the past few years and they might even try to design their whole RF signal chain,” he said. In addition, Apple recently informed Imagination Technologies it intends to design its own mobile GPUs.

Intel makes play for PC gamers

Separately, Intel rolled out its Core i9 Extreme Edition family. The latest version of the line of unlocked CPUs targeting high-end gamers now includes nine chips. The Extreme Edition parts historically are low in sales volume but generate significant profits and bragging rights for PC technology leadership. The family starts with a new $242 low-end four core, single-threaded 4GHz, 112W chip, supporting two DDR4 channels.

The high-end part with 18 double-threaded cores costs a whopping $1,999, but an Intel spec sheet online does not show its power consumption or data rate. The high-end part also supports 40 lanes of PCI Express 3.0, four 2666 MHz DDR4 channels, USB 3,0, Thunderbolt 3 and up to eight SATA ports.

The news comes at a time AMD is ramping its Ryzen x86 processors based on its Zen x86 core, its most competitive x86 family in years. AMD’s high-end PC processor, Ryzen 7 1800X, was announced in late February with eight dual-threaded cores at a price just under half that of Intel’s top-end Core i7 6900K. Analyst Kevin Krewell of Tirias Research estimated AMD’s Threadripper would sell for more than $1,000.

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