Amazon's devices CTO leaves for Google's advanced projects unit

Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN) CTO of devices left the company to join the Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) unit that works on advanced research projects, according to a Re/code report, the second time he left the online retailer in the last year.  

Jon McCormack, who worked for Amazon from August 2009 to December 2014, left for a two-month stint at Yahoo before returning to Amazon in March. According to his LinkedIn profile, McCormack is now a part of Google's Advanced Technologies and Products group, or ATAP. His new title is "head of ecosystem."

According to the report, Google confirmed the hiring. An Amazon spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

McCormack had led the teams that make software for the Kindle, Fire smartphone, Fire TV and other devices. According to Re/code, McCormack had most recently reported to David Limp, a senior vice president who runs the entire devices business.

Although the Kindle has been a blockbuster for Amazon, the Fire phone failed to ignite much enthusiasm among consumers after it was released in July 2014. Amazon said in October 2014 that it would book a write-down charge related to unsold Fire phone inventory and supplier commitment costs of $170 million. Professional reviewers generally found the Fire phone's main features -- such as a 3D user interface called Dynamic Perspective and a service called Firefly that lets users identify and buy things -- interesting but gimmicky and not enough to justify its price. 

So will Amazon release a new Fire phone? "We have a policy of not commenting on our roadmap, so can't give you anything there," Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky said during the company's second-quarter quarterly conference call in July, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event. "We obviously do learn from everything we do and value the feedback we get from customers, but nothing to share at this point."

Within Google, ATAP is focused on future-looking ideas that can shake up technology, especially mobile technology, and the projects are often given two years to see if they can be turned into practical ideas in the market. For example, Project Tango, which Google first unveiled in early 2014, promises to use mobile devices to quickly and easily make a 3D map of an indoor space using 3D motion tracking and depth sensing.

According to Google, the possibilities of such technology are endless: For example, users could capture the dimensions of their home simply by walking around with their phone before they go furniture shopping; or a visually-impaired person could get step-by-step navigation in unfamiliar indoor places. Tango also could support augmented reality apps, in which digital objects are overlaid on physical landscapes for games, information or advertising.

Another ATAP project is called Project Jacquard, which Google announced in May at its I/O developer conference, and is focused on weaving sensors into clothing and furniture to turn them into interactive surfaces.  Yet another is Project Soli, which was also announced at I/O. The idea behind that is tiny radar system that senses hand gestures that can be used to control wearables.

Earlier this month Google said that Project Ara, which is focused on creating modular smartphones consumers can customize, is delaying its pilot launch until 2016. The goal is to create smartphones that are made of different blocks that people can customize as they see fit -- for example, the wireless antenna, battery or camera.

Related articles:
A year after Fire phone launch, Amazon posts blowout quarter - but remains mum on future phone plans
Report: Amazon to release Fire phone successor - but not until 2016
Amazon's Bezos defends Fire phone as a 'bold bet,' says 'stay tuned' for more phone developments
Amazon exec: We flubbed the Fire phone's pricing, but will keep improving the experience
Amazon takes $170M writedown on Fire phone
Study: Almost no one is buying Amazon's Fire phone