AMD Hires Away Chip Engineers from Apple, Qualcomm

The two engineers will help drive AMD’s efforts around mobile chip development, a key growth driver for the company.

Advanced Micro Devices, looking to expand into growth areas and reduce its reliance on the PC market, reportedly has hired two former AMD chip engineers who had since been working at Apple and Qualcomm.

AMD recently hired Charles Matar and Wayne Meretsky as it works to reposition its efforts in such areas as mobile devices and software, according to a report by Reuters. Matar most recently worked at Qualcomm, a top mobile chip maker that leverages designs from ARM Holdings. Matar, who focuses on low-power chip designs and chips for embedded systems, will be AMD's vice president of system-on-a-chip (SoC) development, according to sources Reuters spoke with.

Meretsky will be AMD's vice president of software IP development and will lead the company's efforts around software for its processors. He most recently worked on chips for iPads and iPhones at Apple.

Both had worked at AMD earlier in their careers. An AMD spokesman confirmed the hirings but would not comment further.

The hirings of Matar and Meretsky come at a time of transition for AMD. Like rival Intel and system makers Dell and Hewlett-Packard, AMD has been hit hard by the downturn in sales of PCs worldwide as consumers shift their attention and technology dollars to tablets and smartphones. Company officials announced in October that AMD had lost $150 million in the third quarter of 2012, and that part of its restructuring efforts would include laying off 15 percent of its workforce—more than 1,700 employees—the second round of job cuts in less than a year.

At the same time, CEO Rory Read said the company would expand into growth areas in hopes of generating revenue and reducing AMD's reliance on the PC chip business. In the third quarter, about 85 percent of AMD's revenue came from the PC chip business, Read said. The goal is to reduce that to 40 to 50 percent, he said. To reach that goal, AMD is focusing on several new growth areas, including dense servers for such environments at high-performance computing, embedded devices and ultraportable computing devices, such as ultrathin notebooks and tablets.

During a call with journalists and analysts in October, Read noted that he and other AMD officials saw that various forces were aligning against the PC market.

"There's no doubt that we're seeing significant factors … that are affecting the PC industry, and they're happening faster than we had anticipated," he said.

AMD is scheduled to announce financial numbers for 2012's fourth-quarter on Jan. 22.

Matar's and Meretsky's expertise should fit in well with what AMD is looking to do. At Apple, Meretsky was involved in developing chips for both the iPad tablet and iPhones. Matar will work in developing system-on-chip (SoC) technology, which involves taking various components of chips and putting them on a single piece of silicon. This practice helps increase performance, decrease size and drive down power consumption, key concerns when it comes to tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices.

Since Dirk Meyer stepped down as CEO in January 2011 and Read took over several months later, AMD has undergone a lot of change at the executive and engineering levels. For example, in July 2012, John Bruno, a chip engineer and systems architect, left AMD for a job with Apple. Two months later, Chris Cloran, general manager in charge of AMD's client products, departed. In December 2012, Michael Goddard, a corporate vice president and chief engineer, left AMD to take a similar job with Samsung Electronics at its offices in Austin, Texas.

However, AMD has brought in talent as well, including Mark Papermaster—a former IBM and Apple executive—as CTO, and in August 2012, Jim Keller left Apple for AMD. At Apple, Keller had been director of the platform architecture group, concentrating on mobile processors for such devices as iPhones, iPads, iPods and Apple TVs. He is now corporate vice president and chief architect of AMD's processors.