SAN JOSE, Calif. – Google is ramping up a team to build mobile SoCs for tablets and smartphones. The Web giant posted nearly 200 job openings in its hardware group including at least half a dozen specifically for mobile SoC designers.
Google launched its Pixel smartphones in October 2016 based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoC. At that time, Google also hired David Foster, who formerly ran the Lab126 group that built Amazon’s Kindle and other devices. Foster attended the event where the company also debuted its Google Home speakers and other consumer systems.
Google posted listings for multiple mobile SoC architects, generally seeking engineers with at least a decade of working experience. It is also hiring for mobile SoC physical, packaging and memory design engineers, all to be based at its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
Many related hardware positions are for teams scattered around the globe. Several of the listed positions are based in Chicago, Mumbai, Shanghai, Stockholm and Taipei — although many are not necessarily related directly to smartphones or SoCs.
The news of the new mobile SoC effort came to light after a reporter for Variety saw a LinkedIn post from Manu Gulati, a senior Apple SoC developer who moved to Google. Gulati listed his job at Google as lead SoC architect.
The Variety article said Gulati “was instrumental to the company’s efforts to build custom chips for the iPad, the iPhone and Apple TV.” He also was listed as a co-inventor on “15 chip-related patents” including one that described hardware-based security for Apple Pay, it said.
A former colleague who helped recruit Gulati to Apple in 2009 confirmed to EE Times he joined Google in early May. Gulati initially focused on areas such as bus and cache design at Apple.
“I was a bit surprised [Google] would make him a lead architect, but I haven’t talked to him in seven years,” said the engineer, who asked to remain anonymous.
Designing and making a mobile SoC can cost more than $500 million these days, he said. “I’m not sure if Google has enough revenue on phones to justify it…[but on the other hand] if you buy a Snapdragon it becomes the same as everyone else’s phone,” he said.
Apple has a deep engineering bench, so Gulati’s departure should not have a huge impact on Apple, the source said. So far, Google is estmated to have sold only about a million Pixel phones, so the loss of it as a Snapodragon customer may not be huge hit for Qualcomm, either.
Another source said he worked with Gulati at Broadcom, where he was also an SoC designer prior to his job at Apple. The source saw the LinkedIn post and said “I believe this is true, but haven’t talked to him for a long time.”
Google has been beefing up its hardware team for several years. It has been active in the Open Power group moving IBM’s Power CPU into broader markets.
Separately, Google has already deployed a second-generation of its machine-learning accelerator, the TPU. That chip was originally designed by a team led by Norm Jouppi, a veteran microprocessor architect with a background that spans MIPS, Digital Equipment and Hewlett Packard.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times