If there was ever any doubt that ARM has designs on the data centre and the desktop, they were put to rest this weekend when licensee Qualcomm announced the hiring of former AMD graphics chief technology officer Eric Demers.
Demers left AMD back in February
to 'pursue other opportunities
,' with overall chief technology officer Mark Papermaster taking over in the interim.
At the time, Demers was silent on his plans post-AMD. Having joined ATI back in 2000 from Silicon Graphics, Matrox and ArtX, Demers history pointed to a graphics-heavy knowledge base: previously a graphics designer at ATI, Demers became design manager until AMD's acquisition of the company which led to his appointment as manager of the graphics architecture team. From there, Demers became senior architect and then CTO of the graphics division in 2009.
Demers' sudden departure from AMD, which has long since stopped using the ATI brand under which Demers joined, led to speculation that he could be looking to move to long-time graphics rival Nvidia - modulo any non-compete clauses in his contract.
Instead, Demers has announced his appointment as vice president of engineering at mobile chip giant Qualcomm via the Facebook social networking service. Although no official statement has been issued by the company, their choice of Demers to lead the engineering team points to a renewed focus on graphics architecture.
Qualcomm currently leads in mobile graphics with its Adreno GPU design, which pairs with customised ARM Cortex processing cores in the Snapdragon family of high-performance mobile processors. The company is feeling the pinch from rivals including graphics giant Nvidia and Imagination Technologies, as well as the likes of Samsung which licences ARM's own Mali graphics technology for its Exynos family of chips.
Hiring Demers gives Qualcomm a man with a serious track record in the high-performance graphics field, and also one with experience in an area in which Qualcomm is relatively inexperienced: non-mobile computing.
Qualcomm has already confirmed plans to produce designs for Snapdragon-powered ultra-portable laptops running Windows RT, and from there it's a small leap to researching products for the mainstream and datacentre. With Demers to help, that leap looks far from insurmountable.
Qualcomm won't be alone, however: Nvidia has already released a few scant details about Project Denver
, its secretive efforts to combine an ARM GPU with a desktop-class GPU to produce a hybrid product for data centre use.