It sounds like Apple isn’t the only company that wants to reduce its reliance on Intel. According to Bloomberg, Microsoft is developing in-house ARM processors to power its Surface devices and cloud infrastructure. While there aren’t many details on the project yet, Bloomberg reports the company is working on a chip that it plans to use in its data centers. It’s also exploring the option of using that same design in its Surface lineup of computers — though notes it’s more likely to use the processor in a cloud context than in its computers.
Microsoft currently uses Intel-based processors almost exclusively to power its Azure cloud services. The chipmaker is dominant in the server space, commanding a 90 percent share of the market. News of the development caused the company’s stock to drop about 6.3 percent before trading closed for the day.
“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 spokesperson Frank Shaw in a statement to Engadget and other publications.
While Microsoft has dabbled with ARM chips in the past, as far as its Surface computers are involved, this would be a significant departure for the company. The Surface Pro X’s custom SQ1 processor is based on an existing Qualcomm design, and Microsoft worked with the chipmaker to augment the chipset to its needs. It’s clear Microsoft has at least been considering making more ARM-based computers for a while. Back in 2018, a report came out that said the company had considered using an ARM-based chip in the original Surface Go but opted not to after Intel had reportedly petitioned it against the idea.
While Surface devices account for a relatively small part of the PC market, Microsoft’s decision to develop its own chips for its computers would still be a blow to Intel, particularly after Apple jumped ship with its M1 silicon earlier this year. In Apple’s case, the move to its own architecture has allowed it to ship computers like the new M1 MacBook Air, which delivers better battery life and performance than its Intel predecessor, all without a fan.
Update (4:45PM ET): Added comment from Microsoft and more details as Bloomberg updated its report.