The company with the world’s largest social network service joins the league of leading technology companies, like Apple Inc. (AAPL), Alphabet Inc.’s Google (GOOGL) and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) in are trying to make their own custom chips.
The increasing evidence about Facebook seriously looking at own chip development comes on the back of hiring of Shahriar Rabii, who is expected to serve as a vice president and will reportedly lead the chip-development efforts for the company. Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg adds that Rabii will work with Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s head of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Rabii is an former Google employee, where he was involved in building chips for the search engine giant’s devices. The most prominent ones include the Pixel smartphone’s custom Visual Core chip.
Facebook Sees Benefits From Chipmaking
Among tech companies, Apple has been a front-runner in using its own custom-made chips. It has used its own processors in the iPad and iPhone line of devices since 2010 and expects to build Macs with its own main processors by 2020. By taking chip designing in-house, Apple has benefited by reducing its dependence on the external providers like Intel Inc. (INTC) and Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM). (See also: Is Intel in Trouble if Apple Makes Its Own Chips?)
Facebook, Google and Amazon are trying to catch up in the field, as a lot can be achieved by fitting the devices that match the precise requirements of the company, instead of going with the generic third-party chips that aim to serve a wide range of customers. For instance, Apple has been able to control Bluetooth, take pictures and conduct machine learning tasks using its own custom-designed chips. Facebook started building a team dedicated to designing semiconductors earlier this year.
Facebook began offering consumer-oriented hardware in late 2017 when it launched the Oculus family of VR headsets. Oculus Go was fitted with a Qualcomm smartphone chip called Snapdragon 821. While Qualcomm has already launched an improved version called Snapdragon XR1 dedicated to VR and AR applications, Facebook seems to be interested in achieving something much better with in-house development. Development of dedicated chips aimed at faster and efficient processing of troves of user data may be another benefit. Another use of custom chips is to use it in artificial intelligence (AI). With the social media giant struggling against the menace of fake news, fake user accounts and videos of extreme content, custom chips supporting such AI efforts can be a game changer. (See also: Facebook Wants to Build Its Own Chips.)