Seems like Microsoft isn’t going to sit back and let Apple take all the glory with its new M1 processor. According to The Verge (via Bloomberg News), Microsoft is reportedly designing its own ARM processor for its Azure cloud servers and possibly even a future Surface device.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard rumors about Microsoft transitioning to ARM processors. Three years ago, the company announced it would commit to using ARM chips in its servers, and that it was testing Qualcomm and Cavium chips with tasks like search, storage, and machine learning, Jason Zander, vice president of Microsoft’s Azure cloud division, told Bloomberg at the time.
Currently, Microsoft still uses Intel CPUs in all its virtual Azure machines, but it has released several ARM-based consumer products alongside its Intel versions over the last few years, and even launched an AMD-based Surface. Out of the nine Surface products the company currently offers, the Surface Pro X is the only one that comes with a Qualcomm-based processor, a Microsoft SQ 1 or Microsoft SQ 2, depending on the Surface model. All the other Surface models either come with only Intel options, or Intel and AMD options.
Moving to its own home-grown processors might even help Microsoft better manage its production schedules. That was one perk for Apple, too, but the biggest reason for Apple switching—and it could be for Microsoft now, too—was due to issues with Intel’s Skylake processors, according to a former Intel engineer. Intel’s troubles getting its 10nm processor node, and even 7nm node, off the ground have been well-documented over the last few years. Microsoft has far less to lose than Apple does when it comes to the processors in its laptops, but considering the well-received launch Apple has had with its M1 CPU, it could be a good time for Microsoft to really hunker down and come up with its own processor, like it said it would years ago.