The social network currently has a job listing posted on its website for a manager who can “build and manage an end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization." A SoC (system-on-a-chip) is commonly used in mobile devices, while an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit) is a chip designed for narrower purposes.
Facebook may be plotting to one day use these chips to power its hardware devices, artificial intelligence (AI) software and servers in its data centers. Making its own semiconductors would reduce its dependence on its current suppliers, including Intel Corp. (INTC) and Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), giving the social network greater control over its product development.
The postings didn’t reveal what Facebook wants to specifically use the chips for, but did request “expertise to build custom solutions targeted at multiple verticals including AI/ML,” suggesting that it could be focused on AI tasks. Yann LeCun, Facebook's chief AI scientist, tweeted a link to a job posting on Wednesday asking if anyone was interested in designing chips for AI.
Interested in designing ASIC & FPGA for AI?
Design engineer positions are available at Facebook in Menlo Park.
I used to be a chip designer many moons ago: my engineering diploma was in Electrical... https://t.co/D4l9kLpIlV
— Yann LeCun (@ylecun) April 18, 2018
Facebook’s apparent move to develop semiconductors sees it follow in the footsteps of some of the nation’s other big tech companies. Apple Inc. (AAPL), which is currently engaged in a legal battle with Qualcomm, is beginning to use its own chips across many of its major product lines, while Alphabet Inc.’s Google (GOOGL) has developed a new kind of computer chip to help power its AI systems. (See also: Did Apple Poach a Qualcomm Engineer to Develop Chips In-House?)
Bloomberg reported earlier this month that Apple plans to start using its own chips in Mac computers from 2020, replacing Intel processors. The initiative, code named Kalamata, is believed to be part of the iPhone maker’s strategy to make all of Apple’s devices work more similarly and seamlessly together. (See also: Is Intel in Trouble if Apple Makes Its Own Chips?)
Meanwhile, in February, Google announced that it would start selling its own custom designed chips through its cloud-computing service. The search engine giant wants to a build a new business around the chips, called tensor processing units or T.P.U.s.