Xiaomi Still Undecided About Building AI Chips: Exec – MWC 2018

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According to a Xiaomi executive recently cited by CNBC, the Chinese tech giant has yet to decide whether or not it should build its own AI chipsets. Last year, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun revealed that the company began investing in the development of AI, but while Xiaomi’s research on AI solutions seems to continue onward, the company has yet to push any AI-specific silicon into production. Meanwhile, Xiaomi’s international chief Wang Xiang revealed at MWC 2018 that the OEM will continue to use chipsets supplied by other manufacturers and strengthen its partnerships with other chipset companies.

Xiaomi made its first step into the silicon business early last year when it announced the Pinecone Surge S1 SoC. This mobile processor used four ARM Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 2.2GHz, coupled with four additional 1.4GHz Cortex-A53 cores employing the big.LITTLE architecture. Evidently, the company’s solution lacks any AI-specific capabilities as the silicon was announced before the company made its first investment in the AI field. Meanwhile, companies like Huawei, Samsung, and Apple are developing their own AI hardware platforms. Apple has the new A11 Bionic chipset employed by the iPhone X, while the latest Exynos 9810 silicon powering the new Samsung Galaxy S9 flagship series features embedded AI capabilities as well. Another rival based in China who is now relying on its own AI solutions is Huawei, whose Kirin 970 SoC developed by its subsidiary HiSilicon takes advantage of an embedded neural processing unit.

As Xiaomi’s intentions regarding the development of AI chipsets remain unclear, last Friday the company announced a new collaboration with Microsoft which will focus on the development of software-based AI solutions for smartphones, including computer vision, natural language processing and more. In January, Xiaomi also announced that the latest iteration of its in-house Android-based launcher, MIUI 10, will employ a number of AI features, though it’s still unclear when MIUI 10 will start being distributed. At the moment, the OEM’s efforts regarding the development of AI seem to be focused on the software side of things, and only time will tell if Xiaomi will eventually create its own hardware solutions, presumably to cut costs in the long run.