‘Watch Out’ Intel: Google To Launch Custom Chromebook CPUs

Google is reportedly developing its own CPUs for its Chromebook laptops and tablets, joining the likes of Microsoft and Apple who are building chips in-house.


Google is taking a play from Apple, Microsoft and other tech giants by beginning to develop its own CPUs with the goal of using in-house chips for its Chromebook laptops and tablets in a move that could have ramifications in the PC chip market for the likes of Intel.

“Intel needs to watch out for this because it would be another blow for them after Apple just did the same thing,” said one top executive from a solution provider that partners with Intel who declined to be named. “This is more competition for them during a big transition time. … I have faith in [Intel CEO] Pat [Gelsinger] rolling with punches. It’s just that everyone is developing their own chips in-house for better performance reasons and not having to pay and work with other chip vendors, etc. So the cards are getting stacked against them right now with this Google announcement, but we like Pat’s strategy.”

The search and public cloud giant is looking to launch its own CPUs for its Chromebook laptops and tablets which run on Google’s Chrome operation system by 2023, according to a report from Nikkei Asia, citing people familiar with the matter.

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Google currently leverages CPUs made by market leader Intel in its Chromebooks.

Similarly, after using Intel CPUs for years, Apple began switching to Apple Silicon which is now inside products such as Apple’s MacBook Air and iPad Pro. Additionally, Microsoft is currently designing Arm-based chips for Azure servers -- mirroring an effort by Amazon Web Services, which has begun offering cloud instances using its own Arm-based server CPUs, Graviton – as well as some Microsoft Surface PCs.

This year, Google hired Intel engineering veteran Uri Frank to lead its new server chip design efforts as part of the company’s increasing investments in custom silicon.

CRN has reached out to Intel for comment.

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“These companies building a chip optimized for the platform is a great thing,” said Robert Keblusek, chief innovation and technology officer at Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sentinel Technologies who made CRN’s 2021 MSP 500 list. “A Chromebook is running a very specific piece of code, so it does a very specific function. Having an optimized processor that ideally they‘re going to be able to create at a very high volume and at a low cost is great because we’ll get more powerful computing devices into the hands of people that couldn’t afford them or wouldn’t otherwise maybe have access to them.”

Keblusek said Google’s new chips will likely increase market competition on Intel. However, he said competition is good for channel partners who can provide customers with new and better products and devices.

“Whether that device is a cloud computing data center server or an AI high number crunching type of a device to do deeper analytics -- all of those things are very good for us as we continue to exhaust the computing power that we even have today,” said Keblusek.

Google’s new chips will be based on CPU blueprints from British chip designer Arm, according to the report. Google did not respond to comment by press time.

Keblusek said companies like Microsoft, IBM and Google are starting to build, select and combine different types of chips and innovation for a specific device’s role.

For example, IBM recently unveiled that its new artificial intelligent-based Telum Processor can prevent fraud in real-time as IBM’s chip allows users to conduct high volume inference without off-platform AI products and services.

“I can imagine Google collaborating with an AI-chip to put a Chromebook type of device at a point of sale, for example. IBM’s chip was designed to detect fraud through AI at the edge as you‘re transacting, rather than after you use your credit card. So imagine now that Google has their own chip, they design in combination with IBM, for example, and they come out with a POS optimized Chromebook that now can also do fraud analysis right at the time of transaction, not afterwards,” said Keblusek. “I think that those types of specialized functions by combining some of these development efforts will bring a lot to the compute computing industry.”

The news follows Google’s announcement this year that it is building mobile processors for its Pixel smartphones and other devices by leveraging in-house silicon designs for the first time in its upcoming Pixel 6 series.

CRN’s Dylan Martin contributed to this story.