Apple’s chip program is the center of intense speculation in the technology industry because so little is known about it.
Part of the reason Apple’s been able to keep the details of its chipmaking under wraps is because the man who runs it, Johny Srouji, is great at keeping secrets, according to a profile of Srouji in Bloomberg.
The secrecy applies even to Srouji’s office:
Srouji once invited his former Intel colleague, [Uri] Weiser, to give a speech about chip development at Apple headquarters in Cupertino. After the presentation, an assistant escorted Weiser to Srouji’s empty office, where he noticed that the papers on the desk were all turned upside down. Then Srouji entered the room and told Weiser he had to move. “He said, ‘We are at Apple, you can’t sit here,’ ” Weiser recalls. “He offered me to sit with his secretary and said, ‘If you want to go to the bathroom, she will escort you.’ ”
Apple designs the chips that power the iPhone and iPad, a technical feat that gives Apple a significant advantage. For example, the fact that Apple designs its own chips allowed it to ship a modern fingerprint reader on a phone a year before its competitors.
Srouji is critical to those efforts, which is why Apple gave him a major promotion in the past year that came with 90,000 shares of Apple stock.
Here’s one example of how critical Srouji is: Last year, Apple’s business-focused iPad Pro was behind schedule and missed its expected spring release date. Srouji’s team was able to develop an entirely new iPad Pro chip so it wouldn’t look underpowered next to that year’s iPhones when it finally launched in the fall.
According to the Bloomberg report, Apple’s chipmaking research happens both in unmarked labs in Silicon Valley as well as in labs in Srouji’s native Israel.
The chip labs allow Apple engineers to remotely test their code from “anywhere in the world” on the latest chip designs so they know if future features will work well on whatever silicon will power the next iPhone or iPad.
One of Srouji’s unmarked labs featured “rows of customised Mac Minis … testing prototype chips under various temperature and pressure conditions,” according to Bloomberg’s report.
There are three main possibilities that might answer the question of what Apple might do with its chipmaking prowess:
- Apple could start developing its own modems
- Apple could start developing its own batteries
- Apple could release a Mac computer running on an Apple-designed ARM chip
But Srouji is great at keeping corporate secrets, and declined to talk to Bloomberg about any of the three possibilities.