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:
- 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).