With the Apple M1 in the hands of consumers and Amazon currently working to shift its Azure servers from Nvidia’s processors to its own in-house chips, it’s clear that major tech industry players are keen to bring more and more of their production lines as close to home as possible. And according to a new report from Bloomberg, Microsoft’s gearing up to be the next company to transition to in-house chips. At least for some of its products.
“Microsoft Corp. is working on in-house processor designs for use in server computers that run the company’s cloud services,” Bloomberg writes. “It’s also exploring using another chip that would power some of its Surface line of personal computers.”
Like Amazon’s Graviton 2 chips, these processors will be Arm-based, which makes sense. Windows on Arm already exists, so Microsoft’s familiar with it. But since Nvidia owns Arm, the goal here is probably to reduce reliance on Intel rather than to make the company’s computing perfectly bespoke.
This also isn’t the first time Microsoft’s explored using self-developed chips, though they’ve mostly been made in collaboration with other companies until now. Microsoft already uses an Arm-based chip that it’s co-developed with Qualcomm, the SQ2, in its Surface Pro X tablet. The Surface Laptop 3 also uses a custom Ryzen chip, and the company’s long used custom processors co-developed with other manufacturers in its game consoles, like the Xenon chip it made with IBM.
But using custom chips in its servers is a first for the company.
“Because silicon is a foundational building block for technology, we’re continuing to invest in our own capabilities in areas like design, manufacturing and tools,” Microsoft Communications Chief Frank Shaw told The Verge, “while also fostering and strengthening partnerships with a wide range of chip providers.”
Which also points to another potential reason for the move: as companies recover from the pandemic, they’re facing pressure to become more self-reliant.
Still, according to Bloomberg, this move has been in the works for a while, as Microsoft’s spent the last few years recruiting more and more processor engineers.
Intel’s long been able to rely on its business sales when its consumer chips fall behind, but according to Bloomberg, Intel’s stock is now down 21% this year as more and more companies distance themselves from it.
Rocket Lake better impress.