There's a mighty tug-of-war going on between the world's largest chipmakers, and it's not just for customers. Top staff will always be the difference maker, and Intel and Apple are constantly duking it out for the best engineering brains. This time Jeff Wilcox, once director of Mac system architecture, is heading back to Intel to join the Fellow and Design Engineering Group as chief technical officer.
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That's bound to be a big blow for its Cupertino-based competitor, as Wilcox "led the transition for all Macs to Apple Silicon beginning with M1 chip", as his LinkedIn profile describes (via Tom's Hardware).
Apple is determined to get rid of Intel-based Mac systems in favour of its own in-house designed chips, built out of ARM architectures, and Wilcox had a big part to play in that strategy working. It was, of course, successful, and Apple has since improved on the M1 with the M1 Max and M1 Pro.
Now Wilcox will head up a pivotal role at Intel, where he has worked previously, and will be leading up efforts on all architectures destined for Intel's client SoCs. That's a lot of chips, too. Mobile processors, most definitely, but it'll also play into Intel's new Foundry Services, which may one day adopt a more mix-and-match approach to SoCs with clients. Whichever way you cut it, it's a big role as Intel looks to larger onboard graphics, connectivity, and systems all integrated into a single package, and it's only going to get more important as the decade marches on.
AppleInsider reports that Apple has been trying to keep its engineers on-side with large bonuses, though it's not known whether the company tried to retain Wilcox in such a manner.
Apple's decision to leave Intel behind ruffled plenty of feathers at the x86 chipmaker, including CEO Pat Gelsinger, who said in an inaugural letter to staff that “We have to deliver better products to the PC ecosystem than any possible thing that a lifestyle company in Cupertino makes." Now that's fighting talk.
This is going to be seen as a big win for Intel, especially with Gelsinger's plans to put the company back on top, and a bit of a gut-punch for Apple. It definitely feels more important than those cringey Apple bashing ads Intel has been running lately, anyways.