Why Facebook designing its own chips could help it compete with Apple, Google

Many tech giants now develop chips to power their hardware devices, reducing reliance on chipmakers like Intel and Qualcomm.

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  • Facebook is building a team to create its own semiconductors, following similar work from Apple and Google.
  • Facebook's chip team could potentially use the semiconductors to power hardware devices, AI software, and data center servers.

Facebook is building a team to create its own semiconductor chips, according to recent job listings first noted by Bloomberg.

The social media giant's move follows that of Apple, which started shipping its own chips in 2010, and Google, which has developed its own chip for artificial intelligence (AI) work.

A job posting on Facebook's website seeks a manager of ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) development, whose responsibilities include "build and manage an end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization, including all aspects of front-end and back-end standard cell ASIC development."

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While the posting suggests that these are still early days for this effort, it does signal a growing trend among tech companies to develop their own chips and reduce their reliance on companies like Intel and Qualcomm, Bloomberg noted.

Facebook's semiconductors could potentially be used to power hardware devices, like the Oculus Go, which runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip and will be released in May. The company also has several smart speaker projects in the works, which could benefit from custom chips in the future. Custom chips could also be used to power AI software and data center servers, Bloomberg noted.

Another Facebook job posting for an ASIC & FPGA design engineer position describes an employee who will "build custom solutions targeted at multiple verticals including AI/ML, compression, and video encoding."

Using custom designed chips could also give Facebook more control over product development, and its ability to integrate hardware and software, according to Bloomberg. It will be interesting to see if more companies begin to follow this path as well, and what the impact for Intel and Qualcomm may be in the market.

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