Mirroring Apple, Facebook is reportedly going to be developing its own processors for future hardware products. Offerings such as the Oculus Go and its planned smart speakers stand to benefit from in-house chips. ( Mladen Antonov | AFP/Getty Images )
Following Apple’s footsteps, Facebook is rumored to be laying early groundwork for its own proprietary processors, signaling a move toward self-reliance.
The social network is creating a team tasked to design its own semiconductors, and if so that will make it the latest company to be less dependent on third parties for hardware components. Currently, Facebook relies on companies such as Intel and Qualcomm for chips on some of its products, including the Oculus Rift headset.
As Bloomberg reports, Facebook is seeking to hire a manager to create an “end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization,” as per a job listing spotted on its corporate site. This implies the company is still in the early stages of such a plan.
Facebook To Design Its Own Chips
Facebook will join other major companies who sought to develop their own chips to move away from third-party help. Apple is the biggest example of this, when in 2010 it started making its own chips. All iPhones, Apple Watches, and iPads now use Apple’s own processors, and there are even rumors that Macs will soon run on Apple-made chips as well. Google, on the other hand, isn’t on the level of Apple when it comes to proprietary chips, but its Pixel phones does have a chip specifically for artificial intelligence.
Facebook could use its own chips to power hardware devices, artificial intelligence software, and data servers. Next month, it’s poised to launch the Oculus Go, an entry-level alternative to its Rift virtual reality headset that costs $200. It runs on a Qualcomm processor.
For Facebook, making its own chips will require a huge investment but will allow it to save money in the long run. The company will most likely shell out tons of cash for research and development in the beginning, but once it passes through that obstacle and ends up making competitive processors, it’ll be an easier ride. Future versions of the Oculus Rift, not to mention Facebook’s rumored smart speakers, may also benefit from having in-house processors because the company will have much more freedom and control on how its hardware integrates into software.
Facebook has yet to comment on the job listings.
What This Means For You
By using its own chips, Facebook stands to make better products, simply for the fact that it will get firsthand control of hardware and software development. That means consumers will end up getting better hardware.
Hardware and software development is one of Apple’s strengths: building its own chips allows it to see a bigger picture of how iOS should run against its hardware components. Relying on chips from, say, Intel or Qualcomm, would make the process more difficult because Apple didn’t develop the architecture itself and has to fine-tune its software to accommodate Intel’s and Qualcomm’s chip design.
If Facebook is serious with hardware, being the one to make its own chips is probably a good idea.
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