Well it appears that the honeymoon between PA Semi and Apple is over. According to a report from CNET, PA Semi founder and CEO Daniel Dobberphui has recently left Apple to join another former PA Semi and Apple employee, Amarjit Gill, at another chip related start-up.
In 2008, Apple made headlines when it purchased PA Semi, a fabless microprocessor design company, for $278 million. PA Semi, at the time, was highly regarded for its ability to design extremely efficient chips that offered a lot of processing power while keeping power consumption to a minimum. It’s believed that the PA Semi team, once arriving at Apple, were soon split up into two groups – one group being tasked with developing ARM based processors for the iPhone and iPod and the other group reportedly tasked with developing the A4 processor that eventually found its way into Apple’s iPad.
It’s hard to gauge what sort of impact Dobberphui’s departure will have on Apple, but there’s no denying that Dobberphui was an A-team player. While at Apple, he was in charge of the PA Semi team Apple incorporated into the company, and is described by Linley Gwennap of the The Linley Group as “the leading light at PA Semi.” Indeed, Steve Jobs has previously stated, quite explicitly, that the PA Semi acquisition was done to acquire their talent and engineering expertise.
Notably, Dobberphui isn’t the first high profile PA Semi transplant to leave the offices of Cupertino behind. In an New York Times article from this past February, it was reported that at least 6 PA Semi employees had left Apple since originally being acquired back in 2008, including Mark Hayter, one of the PA Semi’s most senior engineers. While it’s not entirely clear what prompted the exodus of PA Semi employees from Apple, the report speculates that it had something to do with stock option terms that weren’t as favorable (i.e the buy in price was too high) as some PA Semi employees would have liked.
It’s also possible that many of PA Semi’s employees simply didn’t fit in or feel at home at Apple, a common thread whenever a large corporation acquires a smaller company. Regarding, Dobberphui’s departure, Gwennap writes: “He was the CEO at PA Semi and leader of the team, and one of the guys that was driving the whole thing,” Gwennap said. But “those guys are start-up kind of people, and within the structure of Apple, they may [have been] chafing.”