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Google might be developing an M1 competitor for Chromebooks

Google might be developing a competitor for Apple’s M1 processor. Reportedly aiming for a 2023 release, the new custom Google processor could come to new Chromebooks, and other devices powered by Chrome OS.

According to a report from Nikkei Asia, the move comes because Google sees potential for growth. It recognizes that “major tech players see in-house chip development as key to their competitiveness,” according to the publication. This rumored new processor could also be based on technology from ARM, a chip company that already designs the technology found in PC and laptop processors from Qualcomm.

The Google Pixel Slate on a desk.

Of course, custom processors will come with challenges. Google is already using its own in-house Tensor mobile processor on the incoming Google Pixel 6 phones. However, there is a global shortage of parts necessary for making new CPUs in laptops. This switch also takes massive research and development efforts, as well as requiring developers to come on board with the change. Google would even need to battle with other chipset makers like Qualcomm and Nvidia and Intel, who are currently mid-cycle and manufacturing next-generation processors.

Yet Apple has proven that transitioning to custom silicon can work. Apple has put its custom M1 processor in products like the iPad Pro, the iMac, Mac Mini, and the MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air. Microsoft attempted to do the same with the ARM-based Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2 processors in the Surface Pro X but faced issues due to issues with the software in Windows 10.

Google is already working with its partners on ARM-based devices. The new HP 11 Chromebook comes with an ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon processor under the hood. It is one of the first Chromebooks to not feature an Intel or Mediatek processor, and it has had some decent reviews.

Google, however, has struggled to push out its own Chromebook hardware. After the Pixel Slate failed to become popular, Google launched the Pixelbook Go. Both devices feature Intel processors, though the lightweight nature of ChromeOS makes the processor somewhat less important. Google has been depending heavily on its partners to release new Chromebook models and has focused efforts on the Pixel smartphone lineup so this switch to a custom ARM processor could be an uphill battle for the company.

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