Power Consumption of Information Services is Apple’s Future Competitive Advantage

There is a lot of news out there about Apple hiring chip designers.  The WSJ.com has their version.

In Major Shift, Apple Builds Its Own Team to Design Chips


Apple Inc. is building a significant capability to design its own computer chips, a strategy shift that the company hopes will create exclusive features for its gadgets and shield Apple's work from rivals.

The Silicon Valley trend-setter has been hiring people from many different segments of the semiconductor industry, including engineers to create multifunction chips that are used in cellphones to run software and carry out other chores.

Apple could use the internally developed chips to sharply reduce the power consumption of its hit iPhone and iPod touch devices, and possibly add graphics circuitry to help its hardware play realistic game software and high-definition videos, people familiar with its plans say.

There is WSJ blog with more specifics on the chip designers.

There’s been buzz about Apple’s interest in microprocessor designers ever since the company bought the Silicon Valley startup P.A. Semi last year. But there’s ample evidence that the company’s hiring of chip-heads started much earlier, and is continuing. The question: what is Apple going to do with these guys?

One goal of CEO Steve Jobs is pretty clear–developing powerful, energy-efficient microchips for its iPhone, iPod touch and other future devices. Postings by Apple’s recent hires on the Web site LinkedIn include plenty of people who previously worked at cellphone chip makers, such as Texas Instruments and Qualcomm. There are plenty of references to power reduction in Apple’s job postings–spanning both hardware and software technologies–on its Web site and those gathered by search sites such as Indeed.com. Typical language: “The Iphone software team is looking for great engineers to help us achieve our ambitious battery life goals for the iPhone and iPod touch.”

The Apple staff has reached the point where software and hardware need to work better together to achieve higher energy efficiencies. Power consumption is one of the biggest differentiators now, and I would bet Apple knows if it shares its hardware innovations on the open market, their competitors will be able to reverse engineer how to reduce power consumption.

Steve Jobs being the ultimate showman wants to tell how long you can use his devices vs. the competition before you plug it in.

The only competitor who has the resources to compete against Apple is Microsoft, but given their monopoly status Microsoft has a hard time creating proprietary closed solutions.  Whereas Apple can hire the best and brightest chip designers to drive new power consumption performance.

One engineer I remember from my Apple days is Mike Dhuey.  Here is what Mike’s been up to.

Focus on alumni:
Michael Dhuey


When he was a boy growing up in the ’70s, Michael Dhuey had an idea that computers could be used for more than crunching numbers and playing games.

Little did he know that he would help create tools that would change the way people live.

Dhuey has been at the forefront of several computer breakthroughs. During his 25 years at Apple Computing, he worked on the Lisa Project, which laid the foundation for the Macintosh. He also developed hardware for the little tool that’s become omnipresent: the iPod.

Now a technical lead at Cisco Systems, he’s a big part of the team that has produced TelePresence, a videoconferencing system that’s like a sci-fi dream from the ’60s. He was a finalist for Design News magazine’s Engineer of the Year in 2006 and 2007.

“That’s one thing I always loved about Apple,” Dhuey says. “The company is willing to spend more on research and development than many places are. A lot of the projects fail, but there is always something of value that comes out of them.

“And in many ways, the Apple of that time was the last refuge of the true computer designer. Hardware and software—we invented it all.”


To be more efficient requires thinking about how the software and hardware work together.  A performance per watt gets you thinking down this path.

Apple is thinking this way in consumer devices.  Who is thinking this way in the enterprise data centers?