Apple Inc. is building a significant capability to design its own computer chips, a strategy shift that the company hopes will create exclusive features for its gadgets and shield Apple's work from rivals.

The Silicon Valley trend-setter has been hiring people from many different segments of the semiconductor industry, including engineers to create multifunction chips that are used in cell phones to run software and carry out other chores.

Apple could use the internally developed chips to sharply reduce the power consumption of its hit iPhone and iPod touch devices, and possibly add graphics circuitry to help its hardware play realistic game software and high-definition videos, people familiar with its plans say.

In one sign of the new focus, Apple recently hired Raja Koduri, who was formerly the chief technology officer of the graphics products group at chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc.

Mr. Koduri started at Apple this week, following in the footsteps of Bob Drebin, who had held the same title at AMD and is also now working for Apple.

Online job postings from Apple describe dozens of chip-related positions it is trying to fill, some with partial descriptions like "testing the functional correctness of Apple developed silicon."

Besides a desire to beat rivals to market with new features, Apple's shift is also an effort to share fewer details about its technology plans with external chip suppliers, say people familiar with the moves.

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