From being a search engine specialist to becoming a hardware vendor, Google has really come a long way and if a new report is anything to go by, the company is now ramping up its in-house chip development efforts by going on a hiring spree in Bengaluru, India, which has become a chip design hub in the last few years.
The company has reportedly hired sixteen engineers and four talent recruiters in recent months for its “gChips” team. Some of these hires have been poached from Qualcomm, Broadcom, Nvidia, and Intel, and the company reportedly hopes to have an 80 members strong team by the end of the year.
According to the company’s career website, it has 13 job openings in Bengaluru right now, including SoC RTL Lead, Floorplan Engineer (ASIC/SoC), SoC/ASIC Design for Testability Engineer, and SoC Physical Design and Methodology Lead. In addition, according to two industry sources who are apparently privy to Google’s plans, the team in India will work with the search giant’s Silicon Valley chips team to finesse and test ideas before giving them to manufacturers for execution.
Google has yet to comment in reply to the new reports, but it seems that the company wants to reduce its reliance on third-party vendors and better integrate its devices with its software to offer a more streamlined experience. This is something that other top guns in the industry, including Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft have also been trying to do. In fact, part of the reason why Apple’s A-series chipsets outperform other SoCs is that they have been optimized to run iOS and are not constrained in any way.
In-house chip development will enable Google to bring its software, industrial, and human interface design team on board and this will result in better integration of the different components that make up a device.
Google’s foray into chip design isn’t new. In 2014, the company began designing computer server chips for its data centers. It has also worked with Intel on the Pixel Visual Core that’s inside the Pixel 2 and Pixel 3 and the Visual Processing Unit on Google Clips.
Up until now, Google has concentrated its efforts on chipsets that bolster on-device machine learning. One of the reasons why the Pixel smartphones head off competition when it comes to photography despite the use of single lens camera units is its algorithms for HDR+ and features such as Night Sight. Apart from that, Google is also stepping up its efforts for AI training and inference chips for the cloud and enterprise with Tensor Processing Units. Google also makes routers, smart speakers, and home security systems, and all of these devices can see a surge in performance if fitted with custom chips that can better analyze voice commands and videos.
With the likes of Apple, Huawei, Samsung, and now Google slowly pulling away from venerated chipmakers such as Qualcomm and Intel, it will be interesting to see how the silicon industry’s landscape changes in the future. For customers, it would possibly mean reduced cost and better device performance.
Given Google’s current efforts, it’s more of a question of when than if when it comes to a mobile SoC, but for now it seems that the company will continue to source them from Qualcomm.