Google hires key Apple chip architect to build custom chips for Pixel phones

“Google has hired a veteran chip architect away from Apple and is now looking to build its own chips for future versions of its flagship Pixel phone, Variety has learned from sources familiar with the hire,” Janko Roettgers reports for Variety.

“Manu Gulati, who had been spearheading Apple’s own chip developments for close to eight years, joined Google in the last few weeks. He publicly announced the job change on his Linkedin profile Tuesday morning, stating that he now works as Google’s Lead SoC Architect,” Roettgers reports. “Gulati started working at Apple in 2009, and was instrumental to the company’s efforts to build custom chips for the iPad, the iPhone and Apple TV. Apple began using its own chips in 2010, starting with the introduction of the iPad in 2010, which was powered by the company’s A4 chip. To this day, the company uses custom-designed microchips for each of their devices, which make it possible to optimize processors both for performance and energy consumption.”

“In contrast, Google relied on a chip designed and manufactured by Qualcomm when it introduced its first Pixel phones last fall. The same chip is being used by a number of other Android phone manufacturers, including HTC, LG, Lenovo and Asus — all of which goes to say that these phones all offer very similar performance specs,” Roettgers reports. “Hiring Gulati could now help Google to get an edge over other companies. Losing him, on the other hand, is a significant blow for Apple. The Cupertino-based computer maker filed a total of 15 chip-related patents that credit Gulati as one of the inventors. Some of these filings describe fundamental chip architecture, while others are more specific to certain applications. For example, one of his patents described hardware-based security for Apple Pay that securely stores a user’s fingerprint on the iPhone.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Obviously, Google is getting tired of having iPhones and iPads run rings around their and every other Android phone and tablet on the planet.

So, Glulati was a “Micro-Architect” at Apple, part of a team, but he’s the “Lead SOC Architect” at Google.

Sounds like a case of no hope for upward movement at Apple, a chance to lead an SoC team presented itself, so he took it.

Apple will be just fine.

(And, look at Variety breaking tech news now!)


  1. This is an interesting development because if Google manages to sell a lot of smartphones with their own chips in them, there will be reduced demand for the off-the-shelf high-end chips, which is likely to make them more expensive and offer less of an incentive to update them as frequently. That’s bad news for all the other manufacturers.

    What Apple has done and now Google are trying to copy, pulls the rug from under the standard chip manufacturers. It’s only viable to develop your own chips if you are certain to sell huge numbers of devices so that the development costs can be recovered from a sizeable production run. Obviously Apple can do that and has been doing it tremendously successfully. It will be interesting to see how well it works out for Google. It may not turn out to be quite so easy as Apple makes it look.

    1. Rather than designing their own custom SoC, the hire could signify that Google may want to start working with Qualcomm in optimizing SoCs for Android. For Google to waste the effort and resources in creating their own chip does not make sense given the low sales volume of their devices.

      It made sense for Apple, because they did/do have the volume.

      1. My take on this is the hire will probably work on specialized chips for features like Project Tango that can be sold to other Android OEMs, not replace the main CPU keeping that market ‘safe’ while creating a new market and revenue stream for Google targeted at a higher volume than even Apple should Project Tango (or future specialized SoCs) be included in the majority of future Android devices.

    2. Google has not demonstrated that it is capable of selling many phones. They couldn’t sell them when they were cheap and they can’t sell them when they try to go up market. Their are many complaints of hardware problems (microphones, random pauses, etc.) and they have virtually no support for their customers. I’m not sure who in their right mind would buy one.

      1. My use of ‘if’ was intentional and very significant. Google haven’t got much of a track record for selling hardware in high volumes.

        There is however the possibility that they could sell their chip to OEMs. Selling the ‘optimised for Android’ chip could be a profitable venture and could negatively impact those selling general purpose CPUs for smartphones, or indeed those choosing to make smartphones without Google’s chip.

    3. If the chip that will be worked on is a specialized chip for functions that may be offloaded from the main CPU, there is no reason not to sell that chip later to other OEMs. The Pixel may just be the ‘test bed’ for new specialized SoCs that Google wants to develop and spread to other OEM future Android devices.

  2. Sure, Apple will be fine, but to my eyes, this guy “who had been spearheading Apple’s own chip developments for close to eight years,” seems like a PBD? Apple’s been pioneering in this realm and a major related asset is gone.

  3. Manu Gulati, who had been spearheading Apple’s own chip developments for close to eight years, joined Google in the last few weeks.

    That’s sad. It reminds me of Ron Johnson, ex-Apple Stores Chief, going to JC Penney. That didn’t work out either.

    Apple Laughs At Google’s Pixel Flop

    Do you remember last year when there were critics of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) suggesting the company was in big trouble because of the launch of the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Pixel smartphone? Well, it appears that those concerns have been blown out of the water, and by a serious magnitude, given the latest reports on the Pixel’s lack of success. In the end, it just proves that Apple remains the high-end smartphone leader, a scenario unlikely to change anytime soon. . . .

    In the end, investors in Apple should be laughing quite a bit. The Google Pixel is not going to be a serious competitor anytime soon, something I stated right off the bat. If the Pixel can only sell a million units in about 8 months, the device is doing much worse than initial projections. That leaves Apple as the clear leader in the high-end smartphone race, which is only expected to be strengthened with this year’s highly anticipated iPhone launch.

    1. Personally, I’ve never expected Google to put out a ‘killer’ phone. Rather I consider the devices they release as reference models to show OEMs where Google wants to go HW wise. That they sell any large quantity is just a bonus.

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