As noted by AppleInsider, Neil Shah of Counterpoint Research has observed that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) successfully poached chip executive Esin Terzioglu from wireless-chip giant Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), to work as a "wireless system-on-a-chip lead." This news led a social-media account owned by semiconductor-related website WikiChip to ask if Apple is "planning on ditching Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) for their own baseband processor."
Although Apple may very well be planning to build its own cellular modem technology in-house, I don't think that the company's poaching of this executive necessarily tells us that.
The term "wireless system on a chip" may not necessarily refer to Apple's A-series system on a chip. For example, Apple may be interested in building chips with integrated wireless capabilities for other product lines, such as the Apple Watch, a product line that would probably benefit from integrated wireless technology, or future Apple W-series chips aimed at future iterations of the AirPod wireless earbuds and similar products.
Or the executive could be headed to Apple to work on chips in support of a completely new product category that we simply aren't aware of yet.
There is also, of course, the possibility that Apple does, in fact, want to build its own cellular and/or Wi-Fi chips in support of future iPhones.
And, finally, the term "wireless system on a chip" may simply refer to a system on a chip that's used in a wireless device such as the iPhone or the iPad but doesn't necessarily include wireless capabilities. In other words, the executive may simply be working on a next-generation A-series processor.
Here's the real point, though
The real story here, in my mind, is that this is yet another example of Apple's ability to lure the industry's best chip talent. Although Qualcomm's chip business stumbled a bit in recent years -- the Snapdragon 810 was hardly the company's best moment -- the company generally produces leading merchant mobile processors each year.
That technological leadership across various pricing tiers, from chips targeted at sub-$100 phones all the way to chips aimed at flagship devices, has helped the company maintain high unit and revenue share within the merchant mobile applications processor market.
It's also well understood that Apple's mobile-chip teams are top notch, and the company has the unique benefit of needing to work on a relatively small portfolio of chips targeted at its own high-end devices. Not only that, but Apple also benefits from the fact that it tightly controls its software ecosystem and does so arguably better than any other smartphone vendor does, allowing it to tailor its chips precisely to its needs.
That said, it's always good for a company to have as many of the industry's best and brightest technical and managerial minds under its wing, and it looks as though Apple has scored nicely in bringing Terzioglu into the fold.
One more thing
It's worth noting that chip development cycles are relatively long -- they're measured in years, not weeks or months. So the impact that Apple's new hire will have on the company's product pipeline -- if he does, indeed, significantly have an impact on it -- won't be visible to consumers orn investors for years to come.