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Facebook to Form a Designer Team to Manufacture Its Own Chips

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Following the chip-making efforts by Apple Inc. and the chip early work by Google, social network giant Facebook Inc. wishes to use semiconductors in consumer devices. It is currently building a team to design them, following the trend among tech companies to become end-to-end product manufacturers and suppliers. Consequently, this move will lower their dependence on long-time chip manufacturers such as Intel Corp. and Qualcomm Inc.

According to a job listing on Facebook’s corporate website, A manager is being sought by Facebook to build an “end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization,”. This, therefore, indicates that the effort is still in its early stages.

This Menlo Park, the California-based company, is following the trails of other technology giants in its humongous effort to develop chips. In 2010, Apple Inc. was successful in shipping its own chips, and they are currently in use across many of its major product line-ups. Google has also developed its own AI chip as well.

As for Facebook, these chips could be used to power hardware devices, AI software, and data center servers. The company is scheduled to launch the Oculus Go in May. Oculus Go is a $200 standalone VR headset running on a Qualcomm processor. Facebook is also trying to produce a number of smart speakers. Custom-made chipsets could help update the next generations of such smart devices, which would help the company with finer control over product development. There will also be better synchronization between its software and hardware.

As for Facebook itself, the tech-giant declined to comment on the job posting. Though, on Wednesday, Facebook AI researcher Yann LeCun tweeted about some of the job postings, looking to hire interested candidates for designing AI chips.

A System-on-Chip (SOC) is a semiconductor containing several components built into one piece of silicon. Typically used in mobile devices, these components prove valuable in terms of their space and power-saving properties. Most smartphones are powered by SOCs.

An Applications Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), is a specialized chip having components that are the most efficient and are running a particular software. These may be locked down and become redundant over time in case software and workloads evolve, which is a major setback.

The postings made no clarifications as to Facebook’s particular goals regarding the chip, except for the use of the broad umbrella term of “artificial intelligence”. One of the job listings references “expertise to build custom solutions targeted at multiple verticals including AI/ML.”

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