A report by the New York Times has suggested that Microsoft is to set up its own research labsto design and manufacture computer chips for uses including video game technology, as the company contemplates moving further into the hardware business.
The design teams will initially be based at both the company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters and its campus in Silicon Valley, California, with the initial name of the Computer Architecture Group.
The primary reason given for such a major change in the company’s structure and practices is stated as being concern over the creation of technology for the next generation Xbox console. According to Microsoft engineer Charles P. Thacker, who will head the Silicon Valley team and was also involved in the creation of the Xbox 360, voice recognition will also be an early focus of research.
Thacker also suggests that new technology which allows chip designs to be tested quickly, without the need to manufacture finished chips is also behind the decision. “We are at an inflection point in the industry,” says Thacker. “Our friends [in chip design] say computers are not going to get faster, we’re just going to get more of them.”
Although famous for its close connection with chip manufacturer Intel, the Xbox 360 uses a PowerPC microprocessor created by IBM. It is unlikely that Microsoft would want to also create its own graphics technology as well, with Sony also relying on third parties in that area for the PlayStation 3.
Naturally, no time frame is given for the Xbox 360’s successor, although Microsoft continues to be happy to admit research into a subsequent generation console, despite any actual launch date likely being a number of years away.