Intel hires Jim Keller, AMD's former Zen chief, as the company beefs up its talent pool

This is big news for Intel. But does it mean new Core chips?

jim keller
AMD

Intel has hired the mastermind behind the AMD Zen architecture, Jim Keller, as its head of silicon engineering, Intel confirmed on Thursday.

Keller, who had left AMD to join Tesla as its chief of autopilot engineering, has been hired at Intel, the company confirmed in a tweet on Thursday morning. Keller joins his fellow AMD alumnus, Raja Koduri, as two key chip designers in Intel’s architecture group.

Keller is among the more well-known names within the semiconductor industry, especially in PC microprocessor circles. He was responsible for the K7 and K8 architecture at AMD, which eventually became the Athlon 64—one of the few periods in AMD’s history where it competed directly with Intel, and even was first into the 64-bit space. AMD’s Zen architecture, the basis for its Ryzen chips, has recently led to a resurgence in AMD profits and revenue.

At press time, Intel hadn’t disclosed what Keller’s responsibilities will be. But the combination of Koduri and Keller is evidence that Intel is now thinking seriously about chip design once again, rather than just letting its manufacturing prowess—a.k.a. Moore’s Law—carry it through.

What this means for you: Nothing, yet. We don't know what Keller’s responsibilities will be, and it takes a year or two (if not more) for a chip design to come to fruition. (Keller was hired at AMD in 2012, and left in 2015.) We do know, though, that the once regular tick-tock pendulum of Moore’s Law is being thrown out of whack. If that advantage disappears, Intel wlll have to come up with another strategy to succeed. Assembling top chip designers is an obvious choice.

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