Facebook is the latest titan in the tech business to manifest interest in manufacturing its own processors, a practice that’s increasingly popular. Apple was one of the first companies to manufacture its own silicon, and its iPhone chips have been leading the industry since their arrival. Samsung, Google, Huawei, and Xiaomi are other well-known device makers that also develop their own processors for mobile devices.
What’s interesting about Facebook’s move is that the social network doesn’t make that many hardware products of its own. The Oculus headset is one exception. Furthermore, Facebook is rumored to debut its own voice-activated smart speakers at some point later this year.
That’s why the news that Facebook is forming its own team to design semiconductors is a bit surprising. But the company is indeed going forward with such plans.
According to a Bloomberg report, the social network is looking to hire a manager that would build “end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization.”
Aside from whatever consumer electronics Facebook may be working on, Oculus included, these custom chips may be used in its own data servers to help out with various artificial intelligence and machine learning features that could be in the works for Facebook’s main product, the social network.
The SoC aspect of the announcement, or System-on-Chip covers processors used in mobile devices, like Apple’s A-series chips or Qualcomm’s Snapdragons.
ASIC, meanwhile, is short for applications specific integrated circuit, chips that are developed for a special purpose. For example, some of the popular Bitcoin miners out there have ASIC chips inside, but those computers can’t do anything else than mine for cryptocurrency. It’s possible that Facebook’s ASICs designs may help with its server side of business.
What’s certain is that Facebook is looking for people to design chips for the company. Just check the tweet above, from Facebook AI researcher Yann LeCun.