Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Chris Lattner Is Leaving Apple

Chris Lattner (MacRumors, Reddit):

I’m happy to announce that Ted Kremenek will be taking over for me as “Project Lead” for the Swift project, managing the administrative and leadership responsibility for Swift.org. This recognizes the incredible effort he has already been putting into the project, and reflects a decision I’ve made to leave Apple later this month to pursue an opportunity in another space. This decision wasn’t made lightly, and I want you all to know that I’m still completely committed to Swift. I plan to remain an active member of the Swift Core Team, as well as a contributor to the swift-evolution mailing list.

John Voorhees:

Lattner’s contribution to Apple’s developer tools has been enormous. His departure is a big loss for Apple.

John Gruber:

The Apple developer community is still in the middle of the transition to Swift. I’m a little surprised he’d leave in the midst of the upheaval. It’s a thriving language, but it is far from a completed project — neither the language itself nor the OS frameworks.

Makes one wonder why Apple couldn’t keep him, but depending on what he ends up doing this could be very good for Swift.

Update (2017-01-10): Andrew Pontious:

I always wondered if Lattner would be happy under several layers of Apple management.

Company is very top-down.

For someone of his talents and ambition, you either work your way up to the top, or you leave.

Lattner is doing an AMA on Slashdot.

Wil Shipley:

I’m very sad to see Lattner go after Swift 3, but remember Parkhurst left NeXT after NeXTstep 3, and Cocoa’s had a 28-year run so far.

He’s going to Tesla (tweet):

We would like to welcome Chris Lattner, who will join Tesla as our Vice President of Autopilot Software. Chris’ reputation for engineering excellence is well known. He comes to Tesla after 11 years at Apple where he was primarily responsible for creating Swift, the programming language for building apps on Apple platforms and one of the fastest growing languages for doing so on Linux.

Jeff Johnson:

I hope Teslas will crash less than Xcode.

Dan, writing before the Lattner news (via Zac Cichy):

Apple’s poor ability to attract and retain artificial intelligence and services talent is the most serious effect. Apple rarely acquires AI or services companies; however, the odd occasion when they do, key staff depart soon after— often to work on competitors’ products[…]

Nick Heer (Hacker Newsx):

Also making news today is Daniel Gross’ announcement that he’s leaving Apple for Y Combinator. Gross directed many of Apple’s machine learning initiatives, while Lattner created Swift; these are two of the highest-profile initiatives within the company.

Update (2017-01-11): John Gruber:

Now, it feels like Apple is out of the car game, and Tesla is gunning for Apple’s lead in computing. You can’t overstate what a star Chris Lattner is.

USA Today:

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk famously called Apple a “Tesla graveyard” where his failed employees go to toil.

That was a nifty bit of Musk-esque verbal sparring in what is a growing talent war between the tech titans. But it seems he’s now robbing the graveyard.

See also: ArsTechnica, Reddit.

Seth Weintraub:

Chris Lattner isn’t the only high profile Apple executive who departed for Tesla over the past month, rather than sticking around to work on Titan. 9to5mac has learned that Matt Casebolt, a high profile Senior Director of Design for Apple’s Mac lineup left the company last month for a role at Tesla as Sr. Director Engineering, Closures & Mechanisms. A job meant for a man named Casebolt …

Over the past two and a half years Casebolt led the development of the MacBook Pro with its standout and sometimes controversial Touch Bar feature. Before that, he led the team working on the iconic ‘trash can’ Mac Pro and was previously instrumental in the design of the first generations of MacBook Air. These are some of Apple’s most iconic Mac products over the past decade.

Chris Lattner:

Ted has been one of the quiet but incredible masterminds behind Swift (and Clang, and the Clang Static Analyzer) for many years. His approach and modesty has led many to misunderstand the fact that he has actually been running the Swift team for quite some time (misattributing it to me). While I’m super happy to continue to participate in the ongoing evolution and design of Swift, I’m clearly outmatched by the members of the Apple Swift team, and by Ted’s leadership of the team.

Update (2017-01-13): Ben Lovejoy (Hacker News):

Business Insider reports that Lattner had found Apple’s extreme approach to secrecy wearing, especially as his role was to create open-source developer tools, including Swift.

Julie Bort:

“He always felt constrained at Apple in terms of what he could discuss publicly — resorting to off-the-record chats, surprise presentations, and the like,” the person told us. “Similarly, I know he was constrained in recruiting and other areas. Eventually I know that can really wear people down.”


This wouldn’t be Apple’s first time losing someone in a big public way because it insists on secrecy over collaboration. As we previously reported, Apple’s entire networking team quit within a one-week period back in 2015 when Apple asked the team to build a bulletproof network and then refused to allow it to collaborate with others outside the company in its field doing similar work via an organization called Open Compute Project.

Chris Lattner:

My decision has nothing to do with “openness”. The “friend” cited is either fabricated or speculating. Folk just want to make 🍎 look bad.

Update (2017-01-15): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast, Core Intuition.

Update (2017-01-18): Joe Rossignol:

As it turns out, Lattner told MacRumors the answer is actually very simple: he is ready to move on to something new.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast’s interview with Lattner.

Update (2017-08-15): Juli Clover (Hacker News):

Lattner today announced that he has joined the Google Brain team to work on artificial intelligence.

6 Comments RSS · Twitter

Probably going to a startup or a public company with more stock price growth potential. Can't really blame him.

I have four guesses:

Microsoft, Google, Amazon or IBM.

IBM is the second power base of Swift development but it sounds a bit stuffy, especially if he's fed up with layers of management, but he may well have gotten to know some people he wouldn't mind working with. Amazon could want him to bring Swift to their cloud since it's a growing language (and same goes for Microsoft and Google). Google could want it as part of their Android platform now that Oracle's going for the wallets of Java installations everywhere, or for Andromeda or Fuchsia. Microsoft seems to be on an every-technology-all-the-time bender; it would complete, though not save, their iOS-to-UWP bridge, but mostly buff up the cross-compilation props of Visual Studio.

(That's assuming that he wants his primary focus to be Swift and not clang or LLVM. The world is basically his oyster if the other things are possibilities too, especially with LLVM.)

Jeff Johnson sniped me. It's probably not Lattner's fault personally, but I'd want my self-driving cars to be more robust and stable than the Swift compiler.

Gone to Tesla: https://www.tesla.com/blog/welcome-chris-lattner

Probably a good time to get out; after years of sucking up a million man-hours by retooling Apple's entire *platform* to please Swift instead of customers, Apple's board and stockholders are probably starting to wonder when they'll actually begin to see some meaningful return on all that investment. LOL, suckers.

Jobs's Apple burned its old Mac platform to bootstrap its new iPhone empire. Lattner burned Cook's Apple to bankroll his own personal ascent to Stroustruphood. "Think Different!"

@Jesper: He created both the tools and the language and he was Senior Director and Architect, Developer Tools Department. So that made him technically the DRI for this issue.

Leave a Comment