Image: Microsoft

Not to be outdone by Apple, Microsoft is reportedly designing its own ARM-based chips for use in server computers and Surface PCs. The decision would allow the company to reduce its reliance on Intel, whose Xeon processors dominate around 90 percent of the server market.

According to Bloomberg’s report, Microsoft’s efforts are more likely to result in a server chip due to the fact that the chip design team is being led by the head of the Azure cloud business, Jason Zander. Surface devices shifting to ARM seems equally as plausible, however, as Microsoft already employs Qualcomm processors (i.e., Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2) in its ultra-thin Surface Pro X laptop.

“Because silicon is a foundational building block for technology, we’re continuing to invest in our own capabilities in areas like design, manufacturing and tools, while also fostering and strengthening partnerships with a wide range of chip providers,” said Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw.

“Microsoft has stepped up hiring of processor engineers in recent years, recruiting in the backyard of chipmakers such as Intel, Advanced Micro Devices Inc., Nvidia Corp. and among those cut adrift when Qualcomm Inc. abandoned its server chip efforts,” Bloomberg noted.

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  1. I don’t know why MS does this.

    First off, you know Qualcomm and Samsung both are going to come out with much better designs, and nVidia is chomping at the bit ready to get out there and flex their muscle. They probably won’t catch up to Apple in every metric (hard to do when your stuck designing a multivendor multipurpose chip versus someone who is only designing it for a single purpose and device), but they will chase pretty closely, and probably be able to compete on at least some fronts. So why not just keep doing what they have done in the past – largely just built a showcase OEM product, from parts mostly available to all the other OEM builders?

    Anything MS custom engineers and puts out there will immediately get compared to Apple, and when it doesn’t beat every single metric Apple puts out there – faster with better battery life – that will be all the press. It’s a losing case unless you can win on every front. The same thing AMD faces against nVidia – you have to be faster, with less power, and less expensive, and until you can hit it on all three metrics you will always be second place. At least if you are using a third party CPU, when the inevitable CPU comparison hits, it will be (Qualcomm, nVidia, Samsung, etc) that will get hit in that comparison, not MS’s name getting drug through the mud.

    Microsoft at it’s heart is a software company. They should stick to their core competency. At least Apple has always been an integrated Computer company (both hardware and software), so CPU design isn’t totally foreign to them. Even then Apple unique, as there aren’t a lot of other integrated tech companies like that which have been able to survive (gaming consoles are the only thing I can think of that comes close). Unless Microsoft is willing to go to the same extreme – start managing the entire design of the system.. but then they risk alienating the hardware OEMs and enterprise customers they have built up, or forking their OS and doubling the support effort. Again, a no-win situation.

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