Apple is said to be designing its own chips for use in upcoming Macs computers, which isn’t a huge surprise since the company already designs the chips its uses in iPhones and iPods. But there also seems to be a trend toward companies that typically source their chips from companies like Intel and Qualcomm turning to in-house designs.

Last year Xiaomi started making its own smartphone chips. Rumor has it that Amazon is developing its own chips for use in smart speakers. And now it Bloomberg reports that Facebook may be developing its own processors.

It’s unclear at this point what they’ll be used for: but there are a bunch of possibilities, including:

  • Servers
  • Virtual reality headsets (Facebook owns Oculus)
  • Smart speakers (Facebook is said to be working on a device to compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home-style speakers)

So far the only evidence that Facebook is looking to design custom chips is a job posting for a manager that would help the company create an “end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization.” But that sure makes it sound like the company has big plans for building its own chips.

It remains to be seen exactly what kind of chips we’re talking about. Bloomberg spotted evidence that Facebook hopes to use at least some of them for artificial intelligence tasks. That could mean they’ll use machine learning for natural language detection for smart speaker functionality. Or maybe they could help Facebook’s servers do a better job of identifying users from pictures (something the company is already eerily good at doing).

So if and when Facebook releases a smart speaker it’s possible it’ll be powered exclusively by Facebook processors. It’s also possible it’ll have a third-party chip that powers basic features, while a Facebook coprocessor could offer high-performance, low-power AI features.

Or maybe none of this will pan out at all. It sounds like Facebook is just getting started, so there’s a chance that the company will change direction before any of these hypothetical processors ever sees the light of day (or the inside of a speaker case, anyway).

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7 replies on “Facebook may be designing its own chips”

  1. I was hoping their hardware endeavours would side with VR/AR devices of sorts rather than a FB smart speaker/assistant – horrible, creepy AF, idea.

  2. Wow, the idea of a Facebook smart speaker is enough to send a shiver down my spine. I guess they figure by the time it is ready to release everyone will have forgotten about al their recently discovered transgressions. I hope if a Facebook speaker is released it has as much success as the Amazon fire phone.

  3. Who in their right mind is going to welcome a Facebook assistant device into their home? After their latest fiasco, it’s going to be a long time before people are comfortable with Facebook for such a thing, if it can even happen at all.

  4. I’m guessing, at most, they’re probably just providing functional requirements to vendors who will design and implement a chip. Or maybe even just a customized ARM SoC with tweaked features/IP.

  5. They could just hire the manager to write the spec for another company to build the chip. That manager could hire people to evaluate the silicon and audit the contracting company. Apple does that for most of the chips in it’s products (the SOC being the exception). Google has chip designers on staff… but I don’t believe they have in-house designed anything with significant volume. It’s a waste of money to design in-house, and you will not attract the best talent either.

    1. I believe that Pixel Visual Core was contracted out. Google provided the spec and some RTL. The PCIe and MIPI lanes, also the a53 core was IP dropped-in by the contract company.

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