Many see Google, and technically many other companies, as always copying Apple’s strategies, especially the successful ones. At the height of the Apple M1 hype, Google was rumored to be working on its own ARM-based silicon, one that would take on the Apple A series of processors that launched back in 2010. Of course, the M1 silicon was destined not for phones but for Macs, and now Google is reportedly eying a similar strategy that would see future Chromebooks running on Google-branded processors as early as 2023.
To be fair, Google has been making its own custom processors for years, but those have mostly been domain-specific silicon designed for machine learning or cloud data processing purposes. In contrast, the Pixel 6’s Google Tensor will be the company’s first application processor or AP intended to perform the same functions as a Qualcomm Snapdragon or Apple A chipset. While the jury is still out on whether it will be a success or a flop, it seems that Google is already working on expanding its in-house silicon to other devices as well.
Sources told The Nikkei that Google is developing a similar processor intended for Chrome OS notebooks and tablets and is planning to launch the silicon in about two years. At this point, the technical details of this mysterious Chromebook chipset are practically non-existent, but the Google Tensor’s specs could probably give an idea of what to expect. Of course, smartphones and Chromebooks have different processing needs, and Google will have to up the ante if it wants to produce a more powerful Arm-based processor.
The revelation of this upcoming Google silicon is both unsurprising but also puzzling in its timing. The global chip shortage is most likely pushing bigger chip developers like Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and others to fiercely compete for production capacity. Google will definitely have to fight harder to get its chips made, presuming the situation doesn’t let up in two years’ time.
Using an in-house processor does have the benefit of controlling everything and integrating hardware and software better, but it doesn’t come without its own drawbacks. Larger amounts of R&D resources will have to be poured into the development of the chip for longer periods of time. Then again, R&D is definitely Google’s forte, but the quality of its hardware products might still leave some doubting the chances of the Google Tensor to make it big in the mobile market.