Google hires designer behind Apple’s mobile chips

Google wasn’t shy about targeting its Pixel phones at iPhone users (it even helped them migrate), and now that similarity could extend to the processors under the hood. Variety has discovered that Google recently hired Manu Gulati, a key chip designer at Apple, to become its lead system-on-chip architect. While Gulati’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t say much about what he’s doing, sources claim that Google hired him with the goal of designing its own CPUs for Pixel phones. It’s looking for more chip experts, too, and has posted job listings or a “mobile SoC CPU architect” and similar roles.

We’ve reached out to Google for comment and will let you know if it can elaborate on the hire.

It’s not completely shocking that Google would go this route: there were rumblings in 2016 about Pixel phones eventually adopting custom processors. The big concern is whether or not it’s practical. Apple, Huawei and Samsung can all justify in-house CPUs because they sell many millions of devices every quarter. Google hasn’t divulged Pixel sales, but it’s safe to say they’re nowhere near as large as more established rivals with wider availability and bigger marketing budgets. If Variety is accurate, Google is betting either on the Pixel line’s continued growth or is willing to take the likely financial hit that comes with making chips in smaller batches.

The custom chip strategy could also make Google’s Android partners nervous. They’ve had to accept Google as a hardware competitor for years, to varying degrees, but they’ve also known that Nexus and Pixel phones were using off-the-shelf chips that reduced their ability to stand out. If Google can give itself a performance advantage through custom processors, that would change the game. The Pixel line would have an edge over the sea of Snapdragon-based phones on the market, and it might fare better against Huawei and Samsung phones. Apple wouldn’t have as much to worry about (it’s the only choice for iOS, after all), but it might sweat a bit if Google can brag about its hardware brawn.

Source: Variety, LinkedIn

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Amazon opens up the voice control technology behind Alexa

Software and app developers can now use the technology that powers Amazon’s Alexa assistant to add voice control to their creations. Amazon has opened up the service called “Lex” in what Reuters describes as a move to become the top player in voice-controlled computing. According to Werner Vogels, the e-commerce titan’s CTO, Lex could lead to assistants and chatbots that sound friendlier and more human than their predecessors.

Lex, after all, lives in the cloud instead of within the actual apps and software. That means Amazon can make it better and better by continuously feeding it data from people’s interactions with Alexa. While the company’s Echo sales will likely never match Apple’s iPhone sales, Vogels said people use Alexa for various tasks around the house, but they tend to interact with their phones’ voice assistants only when they’re inside their vehicles.

Still, the company needs more sources of data, so it will also feed Lex people’s interactions with third-party developers’ apps that use the service. We’re guessing that data includes whatever it collects from its call center clients. If you’ll recall, Amazon started prepping a software package that includes Lex and another one of its developer services called Polly earlier this year. The package can field questions from customers’ phone calls and texts, giving the retail giant’s software more samples to learn from.

Source: Reuters

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