Microsoft is current working on in-house processor designs for use in server computers that run the company’s cloud services as well as another chip that would power some of its Surface line of personal computers, adding to an industrywide effort to reduce reliance on Intel’s chip technology.
The move is a major commitment by Microsoft to supplying itself with the most important piece of the hardware it uses. Cloud-computing rivals such as Amazon are already well down the road with similar efforts. They’ve argued their chips are better suited to some of their needs, bringing cost and performance advantages over off-the-shelf silicon primarily provided by Intel.
Microsoft has stepped up hiring of processor engineers in recent years, recruiting in the backyard of chipmakers such as Intel, Nvidia and among those cut adrift when Qualcomm abandoned its server chip efforts.
If Microsoft pushes forward with its own chip for PCs it will be following Apple which is moving its entire Mac line away from Intel processors. While neither Apple nor Microsoft devices own large chunks of the PC market, their offerings are positioned as premium products with slicker designs and more advanced capabilities. When announcing its first new Macs based on the M1 chip, Apple touted the performance boost compared to standard PCs.
Microsoft currently uses Arm-based chips from Qualcomm in some of its Surface PCs. It ported Windows to work on these types of chips, which have typically been used in smartphones. Apple also uses Arm technology in its processors. Other Surface models use Intel chips.