Google may be working on custom Chromebook chips — here's why that's exciting

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Google could be working on its own custom chips for future Chromebooks, essentially following the lead of the upcoming Google Pixel 6, which is set to use custom silicon designed in-house by the search giant. 

That's according to a report by  Nikkei Asia, which cites unnamed sources and claims Google is developing customer Arm-based chips for use in Chromebooks and Chrome OS devices come 2023. Such a move could see Google move away from its reliance on Intel for Chromebook chips. If this rumor is legitimate, it could be very interesting for Chromebook users.

Why should you care what Google's silicon engineers get up to? Well, a move to its own chips could shake things up for Chromebooks in several ways. 

Firstly, as we've seen with the MacBook Air M1 and the custom Apple M1 chip, companies that make their devices from the silicon level up have strong control over how the hardware interacts with the software, leading to impressive optimizations. So a Chromebook using a custom Google-designed chip could — and we stress could in this case — offer more performance and increased power efficiency than Chromebooks based on Intel processors. 

Secondly, Google is big into artificial intelligence, even at a hardware level; Google has already claimed its custom Tensor chip in the upcoming Pixel 6 will offer an AI pipeline between the silicon and the software to deliver machine learning smart features faster and more effectively than devices with Qualcomm Snapdragon chips; previous Pixel phones have all relied on Snapdragon chips. 

Thirdly, by moving away from Intel, Google would likely have more control over the manufacturing and production costs of  Chromebook chips. And that  could mean even cheaper yet still capable Chromebook. 

How likely is this unconfirmed titbit of information to to be legitimate? We'd say there's a decent chance, as we're already seen other tech giants start to design their own chips. Aside from Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Tesla are already designing semiconductors for its services and products, seemingly indicating that custom chips are becoming a competitive advantage. 

Google has remained tight-lipped on its Chromebook plans. But we suspect before 2021 is over, we might know a little more about its silicon ambitions. Watch this space. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.