Google has reportedly recruited Manu Gulati — formerly a key Apple chip designer — to become its lead system-on-chip architect, working on components for future Pixel smartphones.
Gulati left Apple a few weeks ago, despite only changing his LinkedIn profile today, Variety sources said. The designer first joined Apple in Aug. 2009, and is said to have been heavily involved in custom chips for the iPhone, and iPad, and Apple TV. He's also credited in 15 different Apple patents, including one on the Secure Enclave concept used in devices with Touch ID.
Google is apparently accelerating its hiring efforts in chip design, Variety indicated, including seeking "mobile SoC" architects" for unspecified phones and tablets.
The Pixel is designed by Google, but still relies on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor like many other Android devices. Shifting to a custom chip should allow the company to better optimize its hardware for speed and battery life.
Apple's A-series mobile processors are in fact built on the same philosophy, and often credited as a competitive advantage. If successful, a Google processor might reduce any performance gap with Apple, narrowing competition to software, design, and miscellaneous other features.
Apple has already expanded into other arenas of chip design, for instance through the W1 wireless chip used in AirPods and Beats products like the Powerbeats3. Another chip handles the MacBook Pro Touch Bar, and the company is allegedly working on an ARM-based processor to handle low-power Mac functions.