Apple's hire of Adobe CTO foretells move toward iOS-OS X hybrids

'Sending a signal,' says analyst, by pairing Kevin Lynch with Bob Mansfield, Apple's top engineer now working on processors

Kevin Lynch
Former Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch will serve as Apple's Vice President of Technology. (Image: Adobe)

Apple's hiring of Adobe's former CTO Kevin Lynch opens some intriguing possibilities for the Cupertino, Calif. company's future moves, analysts said today.

Much of the coverage of Lynch's move focused on his stance on Flash, the technology that Apple has famously dissed and dismissed. One noted Apple-centric blogger, John Gruber, called Lynch a "bozo" and "a bad hire" for that reason alone.

But industry analysts focused on what Lynch brings the table, not what he had defended in his previous position.

"The best architected shifts have a grasp on the software that's intended to run on the silicon, and I see this as just that," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "Lynch brings more software experience into the planning of the next generation of Apple's processors."

Lynch left Adobe, where he was the chief technology officer, for Apple, where he will have the title Vice President of Technology, and report to Bob Mansfield.

Mansfield, who retired last June but then returned to Apple two months later, once ran all Mac hardware development. Currently, however, he heads a new group, dubbed "Technologies," that Apple said last year would "combine all of Apple's wireless teams ... in one organization" and perhaps more importantly, would be responsible for "the semiconductor teams, who have ambitious plans for the future."

Lynch, of course, comes from a software background. At Adobe, he was a driver of that company's shift to Creative Cloud, a set of cloud-based applications sold through a software-by-subscription model. But he also has a wealth of Mac experience, having worked at General Magic, a company founded by several members of the original 1984 Mac team, and before that, helped develop FrameMaker, a document editor, for the Mac.

The pairing of the software expert Lynch with Apple's top hardware engineer, Mansfield, had analysts intrigued by the possibilities.

Moorhead's thoughts centered around Lynch bringing his software expertise to processor development, likely for the Mac. "He knows x86 and ARM," said Moorhead of Lynch. "They can take his know-how and feed that into the processor architecture to optimize the next-generation silicon."

Apple is known for doing just that with the ARM-based, in-house processor designs that power its iOS devices, the iPhone and iPad. By optimizing the processor for the software it's intended to run, Moorhead argued, Apple is able to squeeze more battery life, more performance from its chips than standard ARM designs.

"Apple did that really well for the iPhone," Moorhead said. "They knew what every transistor [in the processor] was going to be doing, and they did that three years before the product launched."

Moorhead believes that Apple will press forward on a 64-bit, multi-core ARM processor design that packs enough horsepower to both run iOS apps and decode Intel instructions to run OS X software on the chip, a necessary move if Apple, as Moorhead has posited before, merges its two product lines.

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