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Microsoft job posting hints at custom silicon ambitions

Will a future version of the Surface Pro X be powered by Microsoft's own silicon? (Image: Microsoft)
Will a future version of the Surface Pro X be powered by Microsoft's own silicon? (Image: Microsoft)
A new Microsoft job posting for a Director of System-on-Chip (SoC) architecture has sparked speculation that the software giant has deeper hardware ambitions. The company has previously partnered with Qualcomm and AMD for tailored silicon, but the job listing suggests the company could be interested in developing custom silicon.

Custom silicon is increasingly coming into vogue these days and Microsoft looks like it may not want to miss out on the action either. Hothardware has noticed that the company has just posted a job listing for a Director of System-on-Chip (SoC) architecture which certainly sends out signals that it is looking to develop its own silicon. The company competes against Apple and other PC OEMs in the tablet, laptop and desktop space and it could be looking to further differentiate its hardware at the silicon level.

Microsoft has of course partnered with both Qualcomm and AMD on silicon for its devices, however these have been more about creating custom SKUs of existing silicon from both companies rather than truly bespoke chips. The greatest scope for creating custom silicon for computing devices lies with Arm’s proprietary RISC-based designs or the emerging RISC-V open-source platform. While Intel is currently exploring the latter, it seems more likely that Microsoft would become an Arm licensee in a similar vein to Apple given its significant investment and ongoing development of Windows on Arm.

It was notable that at Microsoft’s recent Surface hardware event that its Qualcomm co-developed Arm-based SQ1 and SQ2 powered Surface Pro X 2-in-1 tablets missed out on a silicon update. While it could partner with Qualcomm again, it may have to consider another strategy. Qualcomm recently acquired Nuvia, a fabless silicon startup packed full of former Apple silicon engineers and has announced plans to use this acquisition to tackle Apple’s substantial Arm-based SoC lead. As a result, it may want to hang on to this presumably more powerful silicon for itself forcing Microsoft’s hand. Developing a custom SoC can cost over US$500 million, but Microsoft could easily foot that bill putting such a possibility well within its reach.

Buy the Microsoft Surface Pro X from Amazon for just $815, a saving of US$485.



The job posting. (Image: Hothardware)
The job posting. (Image: Hothardware)


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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2021 10 > Microsoft job posting hints at custom silicon ambitions
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2021-10-18 (Update: 2021-10-18)