Taking a page from Apple’s playbook, it looks like Google is working on its own processors for Chromebooks and tablets. And according to a Nikkei Asia report, we could see in-house Google chips as early as 2023, and devices powered by those chips soon after.
This follows recent reports that Google is already building its own mobile chips, with the Pixel 6 expected to be the first to sport Google silicon. Citing anonymous sources, Nikkei Asia says Google was “particularly inspired” by Apple’s success with its A-series processors used in its iPhones, as well as its incredibly public switch to the M1 chip at the end of last year. Like Apple, Google is reportedly looking to build ARM-based processors.
The benefit of going in-house is that it allows companies to customise a processor to exactly meet its needs. It’s the same concept behind why tailored clothes fit better than the ones you get off the rack. By designing your own silicon, you can get around supplier restrictions that might curtail your ability to offer unique features. Google and Apple aren’t the only companies turning to in-house production either. Samsung has a long history of creating its Exynos chips in-house. Huawei has also increasingly turned to its own Kirin silicon in its products.
A good example of the benefits of in-house chip production is the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 lineup. While other Wear OS watches have relied on Qualcomm to produce chips, Samsung has just created its own Exynos wearable chips. It’s one big reason why Samsung was able to offer advanced features on Android smartwatches well before the competition.
Even now as it’s combined forces with Google, Samsung’s smartwatches offer greater processing power because of its 5nm Exynos chip. Meanwhile, other Android smartwatch makers have been hamstrung by out-of-date Qualcomm wearable processors — an area where Qualcomm is only now starting to truly invest. Likewise, Intel has struggled for years to move from 14nm to 10 nm, and it’s also had trouble getting its 7nm process tech rolling.
In general, this trend to move in-house is not-so-great news for companies like Intel, Nvidia, Mediatek, and Qualcomm. However, going in-house is also limited to companies that have millions on hand to dedicate to develop cutting-edge processors. You know, companies like Google.
We’ll have to see how this materialises over the next few years. However, Google’s in-house Tensor chip will be a good glimpse into what Google silicon might be able to do and the features it may enable.