Former Apple executive Jim Keller resigns from top chip design role at Intel

Intel on Thursday said that top chip designer Jim Keller has resigned for personal reasons. Keller’s resignation is effective immediately but he will act as a consultant for the company for six months, Intel said Thursday in a statement.

Ian King for Bloomberg:

Jim Keller Source: Intel
Jim Keller Source: Intel
Keller was a senior vice president and general manager of silicon engineering. The former executive at Apple Inc., Tesla Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is credited with leading programs that have produced some of the most important components in the industry’s history.

While Intel continues to report record sales, its rivals claim their products are now equal or better in performance and that Intel’s manufacturing delays make it more vulnerable to competition than it has been in years.

“Keller’s departure is a big deal and suggests that whatever he was implementing at Intel was not working or the old Intel guard did not want to implement it,” Hans Mosesmann, an analyst at Rosenblatt Securities, wrote in a note to investors. “The net of this situation for us is that Intel’s processor and process node roadmaps are going to be more in flux or broken than even we had expected.”

Keller was a senior executive at PA Semi, which was later acquired by Apple to boost its in-house component efforts. He designed some of Apple’s earliest in-house iPhone and iPad chips, which are the main custom components in its best-selling devices.

MacDailyNews Take: Gettin’ out while the gettin’ is good.

The forthcoming Apple-designed ARM-based Mac performance benchmarks are going to shame many at Intel, home of bloated, fatally-insecure, outmoded, forever-delayed dreck. Personally, Keller would likely wish to avoid what he simply has to know is coming.

Intel’s future roadmap leads straight to abject embarrassment.

Hopefully, after Keller serves his six-month sentence, he’ll be free to return to Apple where cutting edge chip designs actually ship with stunning regularity or to some other semiconductor firm that has at least a clue.

Tae Kim writes for Bloomberg:

Keller’s departure is a big deal. No one else in the semiconductor industry has his pedigree of chip-engineering success over the last two decades. In the late 1990s, he designed Digital Equipment’s Alpha chip, which was the fastest in the world at the time. Then after stints as lead chip architect at Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and PA Semi, he led the team at Apple Inc. that created the A4 and A5 mobile processors, which were instrumental to the success of the early iPhones. After Apple, he returned to AMD and helped design the Zen microarchitecture, laying the groundwork for the company’s turnaround. And prior to joining Intel in 2018, the executive was the head of Tesla Inc.’s Autopilot efforts.The surprising resignation came after other momentous news for Intel earlier this week. On Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported that Apple was on the verge of announcing plans to use its own chips over Intel’s in Macs starting next year.

MacDailyNews Note: Intel’s statement, verbatim:

Jim Keller to Depart Intel; New Leaders Named

SANTA CLARA, Calif., June 11, 2020 – Today, Intel announced that Jim Keller has resigned effective June 11, 2020, due to personal reasons. Intel appreciates Mr. Keller’s work over the past two years helping them continue advancing Intel’s product leadership and they wish him and his family all the best for the future. Intel is pleased to announce, however, that Mr. Keller has agreed to serve as a consultant for six months to assist with the transition.

Intel has a vastly experienced team of technical leaders within its Technology, Systems Architecture and Client Group (TSCG) under the leadership of Dr. Venkata (Murthy) Renduchintala, group president of TSCG and chief engineering officer. As part of this transition, the following leadership changes will be made, effective immediately:

• Sundari Mitra, the former CEO and founder of NetSpeed Systems and the current leader of Intel’s Configurable Intellectual Property and Chassis Group, will lead a newly created IP Engineering Group focused on developing best-in-class IP.

• Gene Scuteri, an accomplished engineering leader in the semiconductor industry, will head the Xeon and Networking Engineering Group.

• Daaman Hejmadi will return to leading the Client Engineering Group focused on system-on-chip (SoC) execution and designing next-generation client, device and chipset products. Hejmadi has over two decades of experience leading teams delivering advanced SoCs both inside and outside of Intel.

• Navid Shahriari, an experienced Intel leader, will continue to lead the Manufacturing and Product Engineering Group, which is focused on delivering comprehensive pre-production test suites and component debug capabilities to enable high-quality, high-volume manufacturing.

Intel congratulates Sundari, Gene, Daaman and Navid as we begin the next phase of our world-class engineering organization and look forward to executing on our exciting roadmap of products.

Source: Intel

See also:
• How to protect your Mac from Intel CPU’s Microarchitectural Data Sampling (MDS) vulnerabilities – May 16, 2019
• New secret-spilling flaw affects almost every Intel chip since 2011; Apple to release patches today – May 14, 2019
• Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich sold off the majority of his shares after finding out about the irreparable chip flaws – January 4, 2018
Apple: All Mac systems and iOS devices are affected by Meltdown and Spectre security flaws – January 4, 2018


  1. Did they actually have someone designing chips ? Has it not just been the same chip design the last 20 years just with +++ at the end of each supposed update?

    1. The real issue with Intel is that they became way overconfident. Their transition to 14 nm (and the transition before that one too) went so well that Intel decided to throw every improvement they could envision (and the kitchen sink too) into the 10 nm node. (And remember that Intel’s 10 nm node is roughly equivalent to the rest of the industry’s 7 nm node. It’s all in the way they define a process node.) With Intel throwing so much “new and improved” into the 10 nm node they failed miserably and catastrophically. Thus they backed off and started adding (and testing) those improvements to the 14 nm nodes. This resulted in the 14+ nm node as they added in some of those improvements. Then there was the 14++ nm node when they added more. Most recently there has been the 14+++ node (where I expect they will stop).

      The general concept is that Intel is working out all the bugs in the 14+, 14++, and 14+++ nodes before forcing them into an eventual 10 nm node.

      Intel has started shipping a subset of its lineup at 10 nm. Rumor has it that these 10 nm node chips do not have all the improvements envisioned for the original 10 nm node. Those bells and whistles may show up in a 10+ nm node (which we likely won’t see shipping until sometime in 2021) or maybe not even until a 10++ nm node.

      We know that Intel is experimenting with the 7 nm node (which, again, is roughly equivalent to the rest of the industry’s 5 nm node). The expectation is that Intel will be much smarter moving from 10 nm to 7 nm and not make the horrific mistakes they made in the attempted transition to 10 nm.

      There were rumors that TMSC and others would start shipping production quantities of 5 nm process node units of main CPUs and SOCs this calendar year. It now looks like that won’t happen until 2021. Still, if that 2021 schedule holds Intel will still be a whole node behind the rest of the industry as Intel is extremely unlikely to transition its CPU lineup to its 7 nm node before 2022 at the very earliest and likely not until 2023.

      Also, the architecture of Intel’s CPUs has evolved. The architecture, which directly relates to capabilities independent of process node, is not the same architecture in the 14+++ node as was in the 14 node. Even with them all being essentially variants of the 14 nm node, the chip architectures have improved (not as much as most of us would like, but there have been improvements).

      BUT ONE THING TO NOTE: None of the discussion above has any bearing on Apple’s repeated habit over the last several years of shipping newly announced Macs with Intel CPUs that already have been shipping for six months or even two years. There has really been absolutely no excuse for Apple to announce a new Mac with a two year old Intel CPU when other companies, at the same time, are shipping products with newer Intel chips. Apple should be announcing and shipping new Macs within days or at most weeks of Intel announcing shipping full production quantities of any new chip. Apple really has no excuse not to do so.

      Yes — emphatically yes — there has been a lot to fault Intel for doing stupidly over the past few years, but Apple has compounded this by being even later in shipping products based upon those already delayed Intel chips. There’s really plenty of blame to go around.

      The real bottom line here with the A-series chips based upon the ARM design concepts and ARM instruction set will Apple be able to design a full fledged laptop and desktop chip and keep the beloved A-series qualities. When Apple adds in the PCIe bus (the current A-series does not support this), significant memory upgrades (the current A-series tops out at 4 GB and they need to be able to go to 64 GB to be realistic), USB & Thunderbolt buses (the current A-series does not support this), as well as many other things a laptop and desktop chip must have, then will it still be the A-series we all know and love or will it become some hybrid monster that fails to wow us like we want it to do?

      Some of the longtime readers of this site may remember that I initially expected A-series Macs to show up in 2018 or 2019. I was wrong. It’s definitely taken longer. The next 12 to 18 months will be interesting.

      1. “shipping newly announced Macs with Intel CPUs that already have been shipping for six months or even two years.”
        Except for those cases where newly announced Macs shipped with Intel CPU’s that weren’t revealed on Intel’s site until AFTER Apple’s announcement, of course. I’d guess most of the “six months or even two years” were based on the desktop market which, for Macs is small.

        “the current A-series tops out at 4 GB”
        6 GB, right?

      2. Mr. Chip Smarty Pants: The bottom line is while you certainly understand the technology, your communication style is coded inside baseball making it inaccessible and MEANINGLESS to the general public…

        1. This is a tech blog. Even if it weren’t, most of the general public knows what a nanometer is and that semiconductors are etched with circuits that can be measured in nm. A 7-nm process has twice as many components per linear distance as a 14-nm process (4x as many in 2 dimensions and potentially 8x in 3 dimensions). The distance that electrical signals travel between components is also cut by half, along with the time to travel that distance. So, much more powerful chips with the same physical dimensions (or smaller chips that use less energy for the same computing power).

          That is MEANINGFUL to the general public. There, I fixed it for you.

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