Apple hires group of UK GPU engineers

Apple hires group of UK GPU engineers

Business news |
By Peter Clarke

The pulse of hiring took place in the second-half of 2016 and on top of the engineers, notable departures from Imagination included the former chief operating officer John Metcalfe and the executive vice president for PowerVR engineering Martin Ashton although the latter went to Intel rather than Apple.

PowerVR is Imagination’s family of graphics processing units (GPUs). Apple has used PowerVR cores in its A-series application processors but it has long been speculated that Apple had moved to customizing PowerVR GPU architecture cores under an architectural license or even designing its own GPUs for its A-series processors. Apple has also been a minority shareholder in Imagination for many years. However, it should also be noted that at least two of the engineers taken on by Apple have the job title of “GPU architect.”

The LinkedIn record shows that in June 2016 John Metcalfe left his position as chief operating officer of Imagination and started in July 2016 as a senior director for Apple. The entry does not indicate what he is directing.

Other recent movers from Imagination to Apple documented by LinkedIn include:

Benjamin Bowman, who had 17 years’ experience at Imagination as a senior software engineering manager and has represented Imagination at the Khronos Group. Bowman started with Apple in August 2016 as GPU architect.

Ali Rabbani, who had six-years of experience at Imagination as a hardware engineering manager. Rabbani started with Apple in October 2016 as a GPU architect.

Daniel Sanders, who had 10 years of experience at Imagination as a software design engineer started with Apple in September 2016 as a compiler engineer.

Steve Fishwick, who had more than eight years of experience at Imagination mainly as a graphics research engineer, joined Apple in October 2016 with the job title “platform engineer.”

There are at least three other engineers with PowerVR experience that joined Apple in October 2016.

Next: A different direction

Martin Ashton, previously executive vice president of engineering for PowerVR, also left Imagination after 25 years with the company and with its predecessor Videologic Ltd. and joined Intel as a vice president in October 2016.

These staff movements took place after Imagination’s co-founder and long-time CEO Sir Hossein Yassaie stepped down in February 2016 and incoming CEO Andrew Heath introduced restructuring measures in an effort to stem losses at the company.

Around the time of Yassaie’s departure there were rumors that Apple might buy Imagination. Apple responded in March 2016 by saying that although it had held talks with Imagination it did not plan to make an offer for the company.

If Apple is designing custom implementations of PowerVR GPU architecture, then hiring Imagination staff is obviously a good way to facilitate this. It is also the approach taken by Apple for CPUs based on an architectural license from ARM.

It is thought that Apple has been hiring Imagination engineers on a regular basis for many years and is most likely using their talents to develop custom cores based on the PowerVR architecture rather than to try and move away from it. Clearly 2016 was a difficult year for Imagination and restructuring and changes in senior positions should be expected to produce pulses of change in personnel throughout the organization.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

Imagination’s CEO steps down

Apple has no plans to buy Imagination

Mobileye to adopt Imagination’s ‘heterogeneous inside and out’ MIPS CPU

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