Microsoft may be developing its own internal ARM CPU designs | GeekComparison

Microsoft has so far not confirmed or denied Bloomberg's claims regarding internal CPU designs.
enlarge / Microsoft has so far not confirmed or denied Bloomberg’s claims regarding internal CPU designs.

This afternoon, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft is developing its own ARM CPU designs, following in the footsteps of Apple’s M1 mobile CPU and Amazon’s Graviton data center CPU.

Bloomberg cites off-record conversations with Microsoft employees who declined to be named. These sources said Microsoft is currently developing an ARM processor for use in data centers and is exploring the possibility of another for its Surface line of mobile PCs.

Bloomberg sources paint the data center portion as “more likely” and a Surface portion as “possible.” This seems plausible given that Microsoft’s chip design unit reports to the Azure cloud VP, with no direct reporting ties to the Surface division. Microsoft declined to comment on specific plans, saying only that it “[continues] to invest in our own capabilities in areas such as design, manufacturing and tooling, while also fostering and strengthening partnerships with a wide range of chip suppliers.”

Microsoft worked with Qualcomm on the SQ1 processor in its Surface Pro X laptops.
enlarge / Microsoft worked with Qualcomm on the SQ1 processor in its Surface Pro X laptops.

Given Microsoft’s deep partnerships with Intel, AMD and now Qualcomm, this would be a sensitive topic for the software giant. With nothing more than anonymous sources to go on, it’s a little early to be sure what exactly Microsoft plans to get out of its silicon research. Microsoft could still easily develop designs with existing hardware partners like Qualcomm, as it has already done with the SQ1 and SQ2 processors in Surface Pro X.

If Microsoft follows the lead of Apple and Amazon in designing its own custom ARM processors, it could shorten its supply chain and bring in a new source of profit, but depending on the scale, manufacturing the new designs could prove to be a stumbling block. .

Even if Bloomberg’s report turns out to be 100 percent accurate, the end result will likely follow Amazon’s lead much better than Apple’s. While Amazon has tightened its supply chain by manufacturing its own Graviton hardware, its software ecosystem remains open – without solid Linux operating system support, the future of a server in a data center is very bad indeed. Microsoft would face the same challenges with a data center-centric product, and for the same reasons, although the “less likely” Surface ecosystem would be significantly less constrained.

We have reached out to Microsoft for comment and will update this story with new information as it comes in.

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