Google developing custom silicon for its Pixelbooks as it heads down a similar path to Apple
Google is said to be expanding its custom silicon efforts to its Pixelbooks, according to Nikkei Asia. The report comes on the back of revelations arising from Google’s recent discussions with supply chain partners with the Mountain View-based tech giant keen to build on the surge in demand for Chromebooks. Google has already revealed that its next-generation Pixel 6 smartphones will be powered by its own Arm-based Tensor SoC made in partnership with Samsung. It would make sense for Google to extend its efforts into its own Pixelbooks if for no other reason than economies of scale.
According to Nikkei Asia, Google has been on a hiring blitz for semiconductor talent sourced from the likes of Intel, Qualcomm and MediaTek. As with the Tensor chip, Google will be developing Arm-based chips for its Pixelbooks. Apple has demonstrated with its recent switch to custom Arm-based Apple silicon for its Macs, they can deliver a potent mix of performance and energy efficiency. This makes Arm-based chips ideal for laptops, in particular, where long battery life is coveted.
Interestingly, the Nikkei Asia report also reveals that the cost of designing and making a 5 nm chip (like the Tensor, for example) is estimated at US$500 million. However, the benefits of creating a custom SoC, as Apple has clearly demonstrated, is that it can be married very effectively with software that is also developed in-house. It can also be designed to leverage particular strengths or product features that can help better differentiate products from the competition. Companies like Google, with deep pockets, stand to yield strong returns from investing in both silicon and software if they can get the formula right.