Between technological failure, brain drain and repeated lawsuits, the division in charge of the Apple Silicon chips of the Cupertino giant would be shaken from all sides. Enough for Apple to lose control for the first time in over ten years?
Apple is at war. A silent, underhanded war that the Californian giant is not sure of defeating. A war made up of multiple fronts, brain drains, legal actions and, apparently, technological failure(s).
No trace of ray tracing
Let’s start with this last point. Mediatek, with its Dimensity 9000, and Qualcomm, with its Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, reached a new milestone this year a few days apart. Both of these SoCs support hardware acceleration of the laser trace. An important asset in the world of video games, of course, and also in 3D graphics rendering tools. On the side of Apple and the A16 Bionic, nothing, while the laser trace has been part of the Metal API for a long time.
According to Information, the first prototypes of the A16 Bionic would have been compatible with ray tracing. But the integration of this technology in the chip would have finally been abandoned, because it was too greedy in energy, made the SoC heat up too much and affected the autonomy of the peripherals. In question, the software simulations of the A16 Bionic architecture with laser trace which would not have been precise enough. Apple engineers, however, would have noticed this problem too late in the development of the chip to be able to offer a plan B really worthy of their ambitions. This explained why there are so few differences between the A15 Bionic and the A16 Bionic in the end.
The manifestation of a deep evil
But this technological rate would ultimately only be the tip of a much more worrying iceberg. Since the purchase of PA Semi, the first iPad, iPhone 4 and A4, Apple teams have been working to create chips that allow their company’s products to stand out from the competition. They ensure the material part of the sacrosanct integration between Material and Software, essential to Apple. So much so that the Ax chips regularly give the La, ensuring an essential coexistence between good performance and reduced power consumption.
However, for one or two generations, the gains in terms of CPU power have been reduced. This could be explained by the fact that the guaranteed power level is now sufficient for everything and more. Corn, Information sees in it the harbinger of a deeper evil.
To believeThe information, the team in charge of the development of Apple Silicon chips is at the heart of the turmoil. In recent years, it has suffered a regular brain drain. Renowned engineers, who have proven themselves at Apple and sometimes within companies before the giant bought them, parent.
This is particularly the case of Gerard Williams III, former ARM, spent nine years (from 2010 to 2019) at Apple where he was chief architect of the CPUs of the chips integrated into the iPhone, iPad and of course later the Macs. . He left the Cupertino giant to found his own company, Nuvia, before it was bought in 2021 by… Qualcomm. Six months after his departure, he was also sued by Apple, who accused him of using his intellectual property within Nuvia. The Californian giant also criticized him, and perhaps even above all, for having poached key elements from Apple’s chip development teams.
A duo of complaints that Tim Cook’s company also filed in court last May against another start-up, Rivos, which allegedly “stole” some essential brains from it as well. No less than forty engineers would thus have been provided within the young company. Two of them would even have left with gigabytes of data belonging a priori to Apple, if we are to believe the complaint revealed by Reuters at the time.
Apple lights a backfire for the aftermath
Since then, Apple would have engaged in a little game of internal communication to convince its most valuable employees to stay on the job. He would praise the stability and the satisfaction that one can have to work for a company as powerful as Apple, especially in an economic context which could harden more in the months and years to come. At the end of 2021, Apple had also announced bonuses of up to $180,000 in shares for its most valuable talents.
In other words, according to the very dark portrait that Information, Johnny Srouji, the big boss of Apple’s silicon division, is not at the end of his troubles. He would even be personally touched by his departures, during the course he saw from the right and close arms.
The small world of semiconductors is full of examples and anecdotes where a brain has been able to make the difference and relaunch a vast project – we think in particular of Lisa Su, boss of AMD, who was able to put her company back on track. . The question now is whether Apple still has this brain in its ranks… or these brains? Because the stakes are enormous. By deciding to take its destiny into its own hands with Apple Silicon chips, the Californian company wanted to become completely independent. But this independence is only possible if its teams can stick to innovation, get ahead of it. Somewhat paradoxically, Apple is dependent on its independence. He can only count on himself… This crisis is therefore all the more worrying.
In the meantime, the Cupertino giant will be able to count on an additional year of development and the arrival of 3 nm engraving at TSMC by the end of the year – a ceremony will take place in a few days for the opening of the first factory. from the Taiwanese giant compatible with this node of production. This should help, but one thing is certain, Johnny Srouji’s teams will have to work hard to avoid being caught up, or even overtaken by the competition…