Technology news website Fudzilla recently published an article claiming that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been "quietly working behind the scenes" to develop an in-house graphics processor for inclusion in future A-series processors.
Although this might seem like news, particularly as it is well-known that Apple typically licenses graphics processors from graphics IP specialist Imagination Technologies (NASDAQOTH:IGNMF), it's really not. There have been very clear and obvious signs in the public domain that Apple has been working on its own graphics processors for quite some time.
Just look at Apple's job listings
To illustrate my point, it's worth looking at Apple's recent job listings. If you go to Apple's job page and search for "GPU," a whole slew of job openings -- many of which are quite recent -- show up.
Now, not all of these listings "prove" that Apple is working on a custom graphics processor, but there are ones like this that make it painfully obvious:
This job listing shows that Apple needs engineers who can work to define the micro-architecture of a GPU and ultimately help to produce "high quality graphics [intellectual property] in order to meet performance, feature, timing, area, and power goals."
If the above job listing wasn't enough to convince you that Apple is working on custom graphics processors, it's also worth noting that it has poached a number of GPU industry veterans.
For example, back in March, Apple hired away John Tynefield from graphics giant NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA). In his previous role, Tynefield was a senior director of GPU architecture responsible for many key parts of NVIDIA's GPU architectures.
Now, he's a director of GPU architecture at Apple.
Apple also hired Utku Diril back in 2013. Diril came from graphics IP maker Vivante, where he was a director of architecture. At Apple, he worked on "GPU design and architecture" from Feb. 2013 through Nov. 2014 before moving on to the role of "ASIC design manager" (likely also working on helping to implement Apple GPU designs into system-on-chip designs).
There are countless other examples for those willing to spend some time looking at LinkedIn profiles.
Why is Apple working on a custom GPU?
Apple has proven with its custom CPU designs that it can run quite a bit faster than its competition can and it is my opinion that Apple continues to put considerable distance between itself and other mobile CPU vendors (merchant or vertically integrated device makers) with its architectures.
I suspect that Apple thinks that it can replicate the success that it has enjoyed in developing custom CPU architectures with GPUs.
Can Apple pull it off? Probably
Apple has no problems attracting many of the best and the brightest to join its ranks; from what I can tell, it has done a spectacular job of this on the CPU side.
As far as GPUs go, I think Apple has so far recruited quite a lot of excellent talent and should continue to do so in the coming years. Although it's not clear when exactly we should see Apple's first in-house graphics processors, I believe that when we do see them, they will prove to be industry leading, just like its CPUs and overall system-on-chip designs are today.