Facebook ‘Forming Team’ to Design Its Own Processors

1 minute read
| Columns & Opinions

This is interesting. Sort of. Facebook is “forming a team” to design its own in-house processors, according to Bloomberg. A Facebook job listing for a management position describes an “end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization.” And yeah, sure, you’re thinking so what, and you’re right.

Facebook Jumping on the Cool Kids' Bandwagon

To be fair, Facebook could use its own processors in its massive data centers. And the company is in the virtual headset business with Oculus, but so what, right?

Right.

Oh, and it’s rumored to be working on Facebook home speakers destined not to sell.

So…yeah, I’m scratching my head.

The job posting also mentions artificial intelligence and machine learnings, but I have a hard time thinking Facebook can out-design Intel, ARM, Qualcomm, or even Samsung. Then again, that’s what people said about Apple, and look how that turned out.

Apples and Oranges and Facebook

Oh right, Apple. That company has enjoyed amazing success designing its own CPUs and other chips for its iPhones and now Macs. Apple may even move Macs to Apple CPUs as early as 2020. The thing about Apple, though, is that controlling the software and the hardware gives Apple unique opportunities when it comes to chips.

It’s difficult to imagine Facebook being able to leverage the same kinds of opportunities, and it’s equally difficult to think that Facebook is doing something in the AI/ML space where commercially available products won’t meet its needs. From the outside, this feels a whole lot like an awkward attempt to jump on a bandwagon that has nothing to do with Facebook.

Spoiler: I have it on good authority that John Martellaro has a different angle on this story he’ll be writing about later this week. I can’t wait!

7 Comments Add a comment

  1. geoduck

    I get the feeling that Zuckerberg has an inferiority complex. Oh sure, they included him in President Orange’s table discussions. And yes he got hauled in front of congress. But he always looks like the little kid who gets to sit at the grown up’s table. So he looks around to see what the real CEOs are doing. He saw that Google and Apple were getting into media, so he pushed Facebook into that. He saw that Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos were building rockets, so he’s explored that. This week he’s noticed that Apple and the others are making their own chips. “Oh, I gotta do that too.” It’s actually rather pitiful seeing him trying to prove himself over and over.

  2. wab95

    I get the feeling that Zuckerberg has an inferiority complex. Oh sure, they included him in President Orange’s table discussions. And yes he got hauled in front of congress. But he always looks like the little kid who gets to sit at the grown up’s table…

    @geoduck:
    What, man!?

    He hurled no racial, misogynistic, or ethnic slurs or innuendos, assailed no one’s character, made no ad hominem attacks, addressed everyone as ‘Senator’ or ‘Congressman’, questioned no one’s credentials or capacity for impartiality based on their ethnicity, political affiliation or religion, did not dismiss the data kerfuffle as a hoax, did not ‘deep state’ the entire US legislative branch, nor did he tweet any calls for his critics and opponents to be jailed. And, he wore a suit! By today’s standards, that’s head-spinningly adult, at least insofar as comportment is concerned.

    Jest aside, it is tempting to dismiss this story as yet another example of a tech giant in search of identity, mission and continued relevance, however wisdom begs caution. Yes, the FB phone never became a thing, but chipsets particularly SoC/ASICs, etc could provide some real strategic advantages to FB over their rival data hoovers. And, if they are sincere about their desire to provide additional security for their users’ data (I know, eye roll), this proprietary approach could provide some tactical advantages as well.

    Bryan, like you, I’m keen to see what our John M comes up with.

    • geoduck

      I agree, in front of Congress he was completely professional. In an I’m-way-in-over-my-head kind of way. The number of times he answered with something about how he would have to check with his staff for that answer was telling. He’s not that good, not that sharp, he just got lucky, and he knows it.
      I had forgotten about the phone, another of his “all the other guys are doing this so I should too” projects.
      And sorry, but a company that makes their money by mining your data and selling it to anyone and everyone has no interest in our privacy. Never has, never will. They are embarrassed about Cambridge Analytics only because it, and they, got caught. CA was too obvious. I’m very confident that they will make sure that getting caught won’t happen again.

  3. wab95

    I agree, in front of Congress he was completely professional.

    I wouldn’t go that far. Granted, the bar for decorum is set pretty low in recent times.

    Courteous? Yes. Tactful? At times. Responsive to questions? When he wasn’t evasive or ill informed, which was often. Professional? I’m not sure that he even knows what that means, but if you intend masterful facility of his craft, polished and comprehensive delivery of the subject matter, even without consulting the slides or reading notes, demonstrable depth and range of comprehension of relevant industry trends, then I don’t think so. That said, he made monkeys of the Senate, with notable exceptions; the House was better prepared and landed many a palpable hit.

    I think that many would concur with you, MZ’s contrition appeared to have more to do with ‘getting caught’ (should’ve listened to more MGG) than it did with any harm to his user base, as evidenced by his less than full throated commitment to handing greater control over their data to those users.

  4. d'monder

    While people are deciding whether to laugh or scratch their heads, I’m seeing something much more sinister. I’ll trust a processor designed/built by a state government before I’ll trust this.

    Can already see the marketing campaign, “Facebook works best with Facebook hardware”. The sheep, who still haven’t seen Facebook for what it really is, will buy into it wholesale.

    • geoduck

      That’s the best theory I’ve seen so far. Cook the identity theft and data mining directly into the silicon. Brilliant.

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