Meta’s chip deal with Qualcomm may reflect its unrealized VR ambitions

Qualcomm and Meta have signed a multi-year deal promising to partner on custom versions of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR chips for “future Quest product roadmap” and “other devices,” as Mark Zuckerberg put it.

Although in some ways the move is business as usual – the Quest 2 is powered by the Snapdragon XR2 chipset – it could give a glimpse of Meta’s trade-offs as it faces falling revenue and attempts to control the spiraling expenses of Mark’s metaverse project. .

What the Qualcomm deal shows is that Meta’s next headsets, which would include a high-end headset named Cambria and, later, new versions of its cheaper Quest headset, won’t run on fully custom silicon. designed by Meta.

This is despite competing companies like Apple, Amazon and Google making product decisions on custom chip designs like M2, Graviton3 and Tensor – and the fact that Meta has a dedicated team to do the same ever since. 2018. This press release states that the bullets be “customized” for Meta’s needs. Still, we don’t know how much space that can put between its “premium” devices and other manufacturers’ hardware that closely approximates Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR reference designs.

In April, The edge reported that Meta employees were working with semiconductor makers — the companies that actually produce the physical chips — to make custom chips for its as-yet-unreleased AR headset. That same month, Information reported that some of Meta’s efforts to create custom chips were hitting roadblocks, pushing it to use a Qualcomm chip for its second-generation Ray-Bay smart glasses instead of its own silicon.

Qualcomm reference designs for wired and wireless smart glasses
Qualcomm

Tyler Yee, a spokesperson for Meta, said the company isn’t discussing details of its evolving roadmap or commenting on any specific plans it may have had for custom chips for Quest products. However, Yee shared a statement on the company’s “general approach to custom silicon,” saying Meta doesn’t believe in a “one-size-fits-all approach” to the technology powering its future devices.

“There could be situations where we use standard silicon or work with industry partners on customizations, while also exploring our own new silicon solutions. There could also be scenarios where we use both partner and custom solutions in the same product,” he said. “It’s about doing what’s necessary to create the best metaverse experiences possible.”

The backdrop to all of this is a company under a lot of pressure. Meta’s revenue plummeted for the first time (due in part to Apple’s changes to how apps are allowed to track users), and Zuckerberg has explicitly stated his intention to up the ante on employees while admitting, “I think some of you might just say this place isn’t for you. And that self-selection is fine with me. At the same time, he’s making a massive bet on the metaverse – society is spending and losing money. billion a year on the project, which includes AR and VR headsets.

This is a high stakes game that Meta would probably want to play as close to the chest as possible. But for now, it looks like hardware clients are accessing Zuckerberg’s Metaverse with (if they want to do it at all, instead of just playing beat the saber) will remain powered by someone else’s chips.

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