Advanced Micro Devices has appointed former Apple iPhone development chief Mark Papermaster as chief technology officer, where he will take charge of developing AMD’s future microprocessors and hardware.
Papermaster joined Apple in 2009 as senior vice president of devices hardware engineering, leading development of the iPhone and iPod hardware. Apple hired Papermaster from IBM in 2008, but made his appointment official after settling a lawsuit filed by IBM around Papermaster’s alleged violation of a noncompete agreement.
Papermaster went on to leave Apple in August last year after reportedly falling out of favor with CEO Steve Jobs amid the iPhone 4’s antenna and reception issues. He joins AMD from Cisco Systems, where he directed silicon development for the company’s switching and routing businesses.
Papermaster will be responsible for developing and executing chip, hardware and software development efforts. He will report to recently appointed CEO Rory Read, and take on a role vacated by Rick Bergman, who left AMD to become CEO at Synaptics.
AMD gets Papermaster at a time when the company is doing well in the PC microprocessor space, but lagging in the mobile arena and losing server market share to Intel. AMD in August appointed Read to lead the company after firing former chief Dirk Meyer in January for failing to make progress in the emerging tablet market.
AMD’s most famous products are the Fusion chips for netbooks and laptops, and the company is building tablet chips based on the x86 architecture. AMD recently announced the eight-core FX processor based on the Bulldozer microarchitecture for high-end desktops, and has already started shipping 16-core server chips code-named Interlagos.
Between working at Apple, IBM and other companies, Papermaster brings of wealth of experience and exposure to many different chip architectures including ARM and Power, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.
“Between CEO and CTO what we’re seeing here is AMD reaching into their client base — the customer and system side of the industry — for talent,” McCarron said.
AMD needs help with its mobile strategy, where it is lagging behind competitors Intel and ARM. Papermaster’s understanding of mobile devices through past experience is good for the company’s mobile future, McCarron said. As CTO, he may not look at every small chip engineering detail, but will be able to pull from his experience on different architectures to shape the right mobile strategy.
“When you look at what triggered all this was a shift to mobile that didn’t get addressed. [AMD] management is hiring people who don’t miss that trend,” McCarron said.
The iPhone antennae issue should not hurt Papermaster’s prospects, McCarron said. Many past chips have had their share of faults, including Intel’s Sandy Bridge chipset and Nvidia’s GeForce graphics chips. It’s difficult for a top executive to pinpoint small issues that should otherwise get caught during testing, McCarron said.
Papermaster will also have to play a role in resolving some fab issues with its manufacturing partners, McCarron said. AMD partner Globalfoundries has had problems with chips manufactured using a 32-nanometer process, which has led to a limited supply of AMD’s Llano Fusion chips for mainstream PCs.
By contrast, rival Intel is making rapid progress in manufacturing and will start making chips with 3D transistors using the 22-nm progress in the next few months.