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Apple's Recent Hires from Broadcom Boost Rumors of In-House Baseband Chip Development

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Apple recently hired two high-level baseband hardware engineers who left their longtime positions at Broadcom to join the team at Apple, reports AppleInsider. The discovery of these recent hires follows a report earlier this week that suggests Apple is assembling a team of engineers to develop its own baseband chips for future iPhone models. This baseband hardware controls the radio functions of a device, handling cellular connectivity details such as signal generation, modulation and more.


The first hire in January 2014 was RF engineer Xiping Wang, who spent over ten years at Broadcom as a Design Engineer and manager of Hardware Development Engineering. Wang was followed by principal engineer and Chip Lead Paul Chang, who joined Apple in February 2014. At Broadcom, Chang was a hardware lead, overseeing the team that developed baseband transceivers for Nokia and Samsung mobile devices.
All together, Apple has assembled at least 30 mid- and senior-level baseband software and hardware engineers from Broadcom and current iPhone baseband vendor Qualcomm over the past three years. Apple is also advertising more than 50 additional openings related to RF chip design, an indication that the build-up is not yet complete.
Apple currently purchases its baseband hardware from Qualcomm, but has recently made acquisitions that would bring more of its chip development in-house. Last year, Apple acquired low-power wireless chip provider Passif Semiconductor and is in talks to acquire Renesas SP Drivers, a division of Renesas Electronics that develops chips for smartphone displays.

These acquisitions are part of a larger move by Apple to control the development and production of its core technologies. This push started with the development of Apple's ARM-based "A" series processor that powers its iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV. The A7 is the most recent processor in the series and is described as providing "desktop class" performance for Apple's mobile devices.

Article Link: Apple's Recent Hires from Broadcom Boost Rumors of In-House Baseband Chip Development
 

chrmjenkins

macrumors 603
Oct 29, 2007
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I hope they get the work done in time for the iPhone 6, hoping for better cellular data battery life.

If they're just now hiring, we won't see it for a while. There was a long lead time from the PA Semi acquisition for it to bear fruit.
 
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jayducharme

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Jun 22, 2006
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I'm curious to see where this will lead. If Apple does go it alone and make their own RF chips, there's a possibility that they might slip back into proprietary (and eventually incompatible) technologies, as they did in the '90s. I don't understand what Apple could bring to the table compared to what Broadcom and Qualcomm are already doing. And I don't see how Apple could do it more cost-effectively. There must be something else they're after that Broadcom and Qualcomm don't or won't offer.
 
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chrmjenkins

macrumors 603
Oct 29, 2007
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I'm curious to see where this will lead. If Apple does go it alone and make their own RF chips, there's a possibility that they might slip back into proprietary (and eventually incompatible) technologies, as they did in the '90s. I don't understand what Apple could bring to the table compared to what Broadcom and Qualcomm are already doing. And I don't see how Apple could do it more cost-effectively. There must be something else they're after that Broadcom and Qualcomm don't or won't offer.

How can they slip into proprietary technologies when they are required to interface with the same networks and operate on the same standards as everyone else?
 
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everything-i

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Jun 20, 2012
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I hope they get the work done in time for the iPhone 6, hoping for better cellular data battery life.

This will be a medium to long term effort as the design teams are only now being recruited. I think its going to be at least a couple of years (maybe iPhone 7 or later) before we see any Apple baseband chip.
 
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everything-i

macrumors 6502a
Jun 20, 2012
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London, UK
I'm curious to see where this will lead. If Apple does go it alone and make their own RF chips, there's a possibility that they might slip back into proprietary (and eventually incompatible) technologies, as they did in the '90s. I don't understand what Apple could bring to the table compared to what Broadcom and Qualcomm are already doing. And I don't see how Apple could do it more cost-effectively. There must be something else they're after that Broadcom and Qualcomm don't or won't offer.

Going proprietary is unlikely to happen as the network technologies they have to work with are fixed. There is a lot of interesting work going on in the RF field and Apple could come up with something very interesting. After all they already wrong footed the industry with their 64bit A7 so they could conceivably have plans to go in new directions with baseband tech too.
 
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yellowtruck

macrumors regular
Aug 9, 2013
134
1
Good!

Good! With this whole Intel-Broadwell debacled delay, I bet they are really sitting up in their chairs now after reading this. Apple use to make powerful chips in their day, back in 2000 and they were not subject to outside manufacturers delay. I assume they will design chips that are perfectly compatible with PC software. :apple:
 
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futbalguy

macrumors 6502
May 16, 2007
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How can they slip into proprietary technologies when they are required to interface with the same networks and operate on the same standards as everyone else?

I assume he means wifi and rf technology. Not the cellular networks unless it has something to do with more efficient or improved designs.
 
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Yelmurc

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Apr 16, 2008
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Apple seems to be slowly moving more and more hardware development in house. This could be bad if they start moving to more and more proprietary solutions
 
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chrmjenkins

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Oct 29, 2007
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I assume he means wifi and rf technology. Not the cellular networks unless it has something to do with more efficient or improved designs.

Wifi has standards too. Their novelty would be the implementation, not the standards. They're actually taking more risk in their custom ARM designs IMO.

RF simply describes the type of IC they're making. That's where they want to be different and innovative. Custom hardware means better suited to their needs means it's smaller, faster, uses less power or some combination thereof.
 
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Infinitewisdom

macrumors 6502a
Sep 23, 2012
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So it looks like Apple is using its cash hoard and resources to gradually control every critical part of the hardware manufacturing process. That makes sense. I'm not an engineer, but it seems like big efficiencies could be achieved by tailoring hardware to your software needs and vice versa. They're also less beholden to third party vendors which may be particularly important as the competition continues to intensify.

What I don't understand though is why we don't see more acquisitions and development on the software and cloud side of things. Or have we?
 
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Casiotone

macrumors 6502a
Oct 12, 2008
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Apple seems to be slowly moving more and more hardware development in house. This could be bad if they start moving to more and more proprietary solutions

Not sure what your concern is about. iPhones need to communicate with carriers using cell standards. A proprietary protocol would have no use, unless Apple decides to install their own cell towers.
 
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keysofanxiety

macrumors G3
Nov 23, 2011
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This is setting the scene for something extremely exciting. Apple's A7 is already one of the best mobile chips around. I can't wait to see the Apple of 5 years' time.
 
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MH01

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Good! With this whole Intel-Broadwell debacled delay, I bet they are really sitting up in their chairs now after reading this. Apple use to make powerful chips in their day, back in 2000 and they were not subject to outside manufacturers delay. I assume they will design chips that are perfectly compatible with PC software. :apple:

Apple never did it alone.

1994-2006 was the PPC era.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AIM_alliance
 
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samcraig

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Jun 22, 2009
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How can they slip into proprietary technologies when they are required to interface with the same networks and operate on the same standards as everyone else?

Well not that it's really likely to happen - but if they created a newer/better standard and convinced networks to update/upgrade their infrastructure in the future, they'd pretty much have a lock on a revenue stream. FRAND no doubt, but still a powerful revenue stream.
 
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MH01

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Feb 11, 2008
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Not sure what your concern is about. iPhones need to communicate with carriers using cell standards. A proprietary protocol would have no use, unless Apple decides to install their own cell towers.

If Apple = mobile phones for you, your sweet as.

If Apple = Computers, proprietary is a pain in the ass!

----------

Program Managers don't do jack.

Well they make very good coin for doing nothing than ;)

I'll take their job/pay over a dev/engineer.
 
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69650

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Mar 23, 2006
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I've said for some time that they need to develop more of their own components rather than rely on suppliers. It gives them much greater control and privacy. Might as well spend that US based cash pile on something useful like R&D. Probably get a load of tax breaks in the process.
 
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