Microsoft may be developing its internal ARM CPU designs

So far Microsoft has not confirmed or rejected Bloomberg's claims regarding internal CPU design.
Enlargement / So far Microsoft has not confirmed or rejected Bloomberg’s claims regarding internal CPU design.

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

Bloomberg cites unregistered conversations with Microsoft employees who did not want to be named. These sources said that Microsoft is currently developing an ARM processor for datacenter use and is exploring the possibility of another one for the Surface line of mobile PCs.

Bloomberg stores paint the datacenter part as “more likely” and the Surface part as “more likely.” This seems plausible, given that Microsoft’s chip design unit reports to the Azure cloud VP, with no direct reporting connection to the Surface division. Microsoft declined to comment on any specific plans, saying only that it was “[continues] to invest in our own capabilities in areas such as design, manufacturing and machinery, while nurturing and strengthening partnerships with a wide range of chip suppliers. “

Microsoft partnered with Qualcomm on an SQ1 processor in the Surface Pro X laptops.
Enlargement / Microsoft partnered with Qualcomm on an SQ1 processor in the Surface Pro X laptops.

With 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 exactly what, Microsoft expects to get out of its silicon search. Microsoft could still just co-design designs with hardware partners like Qualcomm, the way it already has 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 is able to shorten its supply chain and add another source of profit – but depending on scale, manufacturing of the designs could new to be an obstacle.

Even if a Bloomberg report proves to be 100 percent inaccurate, the final product is likely to follow Amazon’s lead much more closely than Apple’s product. While Amazon has tightened the supply chain with the release of its own Graviton hardware, its product ecosystem is open – without the support of a solid Linux operating system, there is a future server in datacenter very poor indeed. Microsoft would face the same challenges with a datacenter-focused product, and for the same reasons – even if the “less likely” surface ecosystem would be less constrained.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment, and will update this story with any new information as it arrives.

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