Yes, Google is Making Chips for Chromebooks Too

Posted on September 1, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Chrome OS, Chromebook, Google, Hardware, Mobile, Pixelbook with 4 Comments

With Google set to release the first Pixel handsets with its own in-house microprocessors, this won’t come as much of a surprise: The online giant plans to make similar chipsets for its Chromebooks soon as well.

At least that’s according to an exclusive report in Nikkei Asia, which notes that its first custom-designed microprocessors—really, System on a Chip (SoC)—designs should appear in Chromebook “laptops and tablets” in 2023. The publication cites three sources who are familiar with Google’s plans.

As Nikkei Asia says, Google’s accelerating hardware plans are part of an effort to further differentiate its offerings from those of its rivals, and, of course, to mimic what Apple has done so successfully. Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, and other platform makers are pursuing similar efforts, though few are as advanced as is Google.

Google has been designing custom chipsets for its Pixel handsets (and for its datacenters) for years, of course, but its move into microprocessors/SoCs marks a major step forward, as it allows the firm to do what Apple already does: Tie its software and hardware innovations together to create even more integrated experiences. Today, Google is able to achieve incredible results with low- and medium-end Qualcomm processors and out-of-date camera sensors, so it’s likely that the firm’s products will be truly impressive and distinctive if it can control even more of the hardware stack.

Nikkei Asia also claims that the new Google chipsets, like those coming in the Pixel 6 series, are based on Arm designs. Google saw its smartphone sales halved last year to just 3.7 million units, thanks in large part to COVID-19, but it is reportedly telling supplies to expect much better sales in the coming year. Google’s sales of Chromebooks, meanwhile, doubled during the pandemic.

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Comments (4)

4 responses to “Yes, Google is Making Chips for Chromebooks Too”

  1. MikeCerm

    I'd love to see some higher-end ARM SoCs in Chromebooks. The low-end Mediatek chips that are in the few ARM-based Chromebooks are fine for what they are and provide great battery life, but they're really just the bare minimum. That being said, I'm skeptical that anything Google is working on is going to really matter at all. If they're indeed working on SoCs "based on ARM designs," we already know how well those work: generally a little worse than Qualcomm's SoCs. ARM still doesn't have anything that's competitive with what AMD or Intel can do in a laptop-sized device. Apple does, but they are fully custom at this point. If ARM, Qualcomm, Samsung, Mediatek, and other companies that have been designing chips for more than a decade haven't figured it out yet, I really don't see how Google's going to magically change the game any time soon.

    • ringofvoid

      Qualcomm, Samsung, & Mediatek don't get the same ROI as Apple does designing high-end ARM SOCs. It looks like Google is going to follow their same route of piecing together ARM designed cores and adding their custom Tensor chips to create their new SOCs. I'd love it if Google would follow Apple's path and start designing custom ARMv8.5‑A cores but they probably don't see much ROI in it either.

      • MikeCerm

        What's ironic is that of all the manufacturers out there, Apple is the one company that least needs it's own custom silicon. Nobody buys iPhones because they're the absolute best performing handsets, they buy them because they are iPhones, for the ecosystem. A lot of people who really do care about performance chose Android regardless because of how restrictive iOS can be. Like, you still can't even put app icons on the bottom of the screen. Since nobody else makes iPhones, the fact that the iPhone CPU is 2x faster than anything else on the market is almost irrelevant to Apple's bottom line, because people don't choose iPhone based on performance benchmarks. If Samsung made a custom CPU that was as 2x faster than the Qualcomm default, that would be a reason for every Android power user to Samsung phone rather than one with the same old Qualcomm chip that everyone else is using. Or they could license that chip out and make money that way, which Apple doesn't do. They could have the performance crown, and/or undercut others on price if they wanted because they wouldn't need to send a bunch of money to Qualcomm. The ROI for Samsung would be much greater than for Apple... Except Samsung already does make their own chips, they're just not good because they don't have the engineers that Apple does, and there's probably nothing that Samsung to pay to recruit engineering talent that Apple can't match.

  2. Pbike908

    Perhaps Google will get back into tablets. I don't understand why they have completely surrendered that market to Apple.

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