AMD nabs Apple graphics chip designer

The PC and server chipmaker will soon announce Raja Koduri is joining AMD's team to work on graphics chip design, CNET has exclusively learned.

An AMD employee inspects a semiconductor wafer. Norbert Millauer/DDP
Advanced Micro Devices will soon announce it has hired a former Apple graphics chip designer to bolster its engineering leadership bench as it turns itself around, CNET has learned.

Raja Koduri, who most recently served as director of graphics architecture for Apple, will be rejoining AMD four years after leaving that company, people familiar with the hire told CNET. He will be taking on a role in AMD's graphics business, though it wasn't immediately clear to CNET what his title would be. AMD is expected to make the announcement next week.

The move is the latest in a series of behind-the-scenes shuffles among some heavy hitters in the chip market. Last August, AMD named Jim Keller to be its corporate vice president and chief microprocessor architect , reporting to former Apple hardware chief Mark Papermaster. The month before it was AMD chip designer John Bruno, who joined Apple .

Koduri joined Apple from AMD in April 2009 as part of the electronics giant's push to build up its own chip operations. Instead of relying on partners like Intel to design processors for smartphones and tablets, Apple started creating its own chips for mobile devices.

Koduri served as director of advanced technology development at ATI Technologies before AMD acquired the company. At the time he left AMD in April 2009, Koduri was serving as chief technology officer of AMD's graphics product group, according to his LinkedIn page.

Koduri left Apple in March and since then has taken on the role as adviser to the board of Makuta VFX, an Indian visual effects company.

AMD had courted Koduri for some time, people familiar with the matter told CNET, trying to get him to return to the company.

Keller, meanwhile, served as a director in Apple's platform architecture group, designing mobile chips such as those used in the iPad,iPhone,iPod, and Apple TV. Earlier in his career, Keller had spent time at AMD before leaving for Broadcom and other chipmakers. He joined Apple through the company's acquisition of P.A. Semi.

Koduri and Keller efforts at Apple complemented each other, and it's likely they will continue to do so at AMD. The company's strategy revolves around integrating as many features on the same piece of silicon as it can, including graphics and the brains of the chip -- areas where the expertise of Koduri and Keller will come in handy.

The hire is likely to be a big boost to morale at AMD. The company is in the midst of a turnaround led by CEO Rory Read, but the going hasn't been easy. Rival Intel has been dominating the PC and server markets, while graphics competitor Nvidia has gained strong traction with its latest GPU. It doesn't help, either, that the overall computer market has been slumping badly. In one bright spot, though, AMD's graphics will be used in the upcoming Sony Playstation 4.

AMD on Thursday reported a narrower first-quarter loss, but its revenue dropped 31 percent from the previous year. To combat the weak environment, AMD has laid off a significant portion of its staff, as first reported by CNET, and has restructured its relationship with Globalfoundries, its manufacturing partner.

 

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