Does Facebook have designs on its own chip?

Facebook, a chip designer? Never! Well, don't be too quick to pooh-pooh the idea. Facebook, after all, is a Silicon Valley company.

Facebook may venture into the rarified ranks of chip designers, a source told CNET.

Sound crazy? Well, Facebook already makes its own servers.

While designing a chip is a more ambitious undertaking than building a server -- and way outside Facebook's core competency of social networking -- market-leading companies are always looking into alternative businesses opportunities.

"They have chip designers," the source said but admitted that it's not clear what those designers are for. This person also said that it wasn't clear if Facebook was using a design from ARM, referring to the most popular chip architecture for smartphones and tablets.

Could the chip be for a future Facebook device, like a tablet or smartphone? Or maybe something more dull like silicon for a data center computer? Again, that is not known.

Nor is it known if it would ever come to fruition.

Chip die.
Chip die.

But there are more than a few examples of large tech companies getting into businesses that seem, at first, at odds with their core business. Apple dove into chip design back in 2008 and has been successful in that venture. And Amazon, a Web-based retailer, designed its own tablet, which quickly became the top-seller on the Android platform.

Could Facebook replicate that kind of success? It's an enticing thought.

Facebook declined to comment.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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