Apple Recruiting Chip Engineers to Work in Qualcomm’s Backyard

(Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. is aggressively hiring engineers in Qualcomm Inc.’s home base of San Diego, seeking designers to develop wireless components and processors that would further weaken the chipmaker’s chances of again supplying chips for the iPhone maker’s future devices.

This month, Apple published 10 job listings on its website for chip design-related positions located in the city, marking the first time the Cupertino, California-based technology giant has publicly recruited for such roles in the Southern California hotbed for chip design. Apple is advertising for engineers to work on multiple types of chip components, including engineers to work on the company’s Neural Engine artificial intelligence processor and wireless chips.

Apple Recruiting Chip Engineers to Work in Qualcomm’s Backyard

Apple is seeking hardware and software engineers to work on wireless components, implying that it may be adding a new location for its efforts to produce wireless chips. It already houses chip designers in several locations, including in prime areas for poaching from chip-designing rivals:

  • Portland, Oregon (Intel Corp. designs its chips nearby)
  • Austin, Texas (Where Apple has a large campus, but also where Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has most of its operations)
  • Orlando, Florida (Where AMD also has a presence)
  • Haifa and Herzliya, Israel (Intel has multiple sites in Israel)
  • Munich, Germany (Infineon Technologies AG has its headquarters nearby)
  • Taipei, Taiwan (For Apple’s own in-house screen design efforts)
  • Tokyo, Japan (Toshiba Corp. designs its chips in Japan)

Apple’s chipmaking efforts are still based at its Northern California headquarters. The company has increased the amount of components it designs itself over the lifetime of the iPhone. That gives it the ability to differentiate its flagship products from those made by rivals that rely on a shrinking pool of chipmakers for standard components produced on their schedule. It also gives Apple greater control over costs.

Apple Recruiting Chip Engineers to Work in Qualcomm’s Backyard

To date, the company has released wireless chips for AirPods and the Apple Watch, but hasn’t produced its own complete wireless systems for the iPhone, its best-selling device. Apple is seeking engineers with experience in mainstream wireless protocols like LTE and Bluetooth, and for those with experience in newer technology like 5G and millimeter wave.

The most important wireless component inside the iPhone is the modem, which allows the device to connect to cellular towers in order to access the internet and make phone calls. Beginning in 2011, Apple used Qualcomm modems, but in 2017 the iPhone maker started to break away by also using modems from Intel Corp. Amid its on-going patent and royalties fight with Qualcomm, Apple this year stopped using the San Diego-based company’s modems in its latest devices.

Apple Recruiting Chip Engineers to Work in Qualcomm’s Backyard

The move to hire wireless technology experts in Qualcomm’s backyard only intensifies that fight, indicating Apple is moving to even further reduce its reliance on external chipmakers and could be gearing up to launch more wireless chips in-house. Apple already makes several of its own chips, including those for the main processor of its devices, graphics engines, and specific functions for Mac computers. It has also started shipping its own power management components in some products and plans to replace Intel chips in Macs in at least some computer models as early as 2020, Bloomberg News has reported.

Apple declined to respond to requests for comment on its chip production efforts. Qualcomm declined to comment.

It’s unclear if Apple has already opened a new office in San Diego to house its new hardware engineering group or if it is placing the engineers in offices it acquired with the purchases of Shazam and artificial intelligence startup Emotient.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.