Google uses System-on-a-Chip to take its fight to Apple

Google uses System-on-a-Chip to take its fight to Apple

A recent developer event reveals Google is looking at greater integration across devices, and also between its hardware and software, to better compete against rivals

Close on the heels of Apple’s System-on-a-Chip (SoC) powering its Macs, iPads, and iPhones to set sales records, Google used its recent developer eventI/O 2022 (I/O stands for input-output) to unleash an array of consumer devices by announcing new product lines, new iterations of existing products, and the adoption of Google’s Tensor SoC across other devices.

A SoC is essentially an integrated circuit or an IC that takes a single platform and integrates an entire electronic or computer system onto it. It is, exactly as its name suggests, an entire system on a single chip. The components that an SoC generally looks to incorporate within itself include a central processing unit, input, and output ports, internal memory, as well as analog input and output blocks among other things.

Apple is a recent example of the positive impact an optimized SoC can have on sales, as its Mac revenue grew 25% YoY in fiscal Q1 2022 – from $8.7 billion to $10.9 billion a year after it released Mac devices with its M1 SoC. The Apple M1 is an ARM-based SoC designed by Apple as a CPU and graphics GPU for its Macintosh desktops. The M1 substantially increased the performance and energy efficiency of the Macs, but more importantly, it integrated the Macs closer with the iPhone and iPad. Historically, Mac devices have been unable to integrate with the rest of Apple’s ecosystem as well as other Apple products because, until the release of the M1, Macs ran on Intel chips.

However, the underlying messaging throughout the I/O 2022event centered on Google’s ecosystem and increased the adoption of Tensor. While Google has had consumer products and services for many years, the adoption of Tensor across its devices will elevate its ecosystem in a way previously unachievable for the company. This is because SoC will enable deeper levels of integration across Google’s devices and between its hardware and software, positioning it to better compete against rivals.

A new wave of competition and innovation

The implications of this event will develop and intensify over the coming years as Google releases more products housing its Tensor chip and as the Tensor chip itself is updated and built upon. Rivals Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, and other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) should prepare for increased competitive pressure from Google.

The introduction of new lines of products designed and owned by Google, coupled with greater adoption of the Tensor SoC, will revolutionize Google’s ecosystem. Until this point, Google’s device ecosystem was fragmented and lacked cohesion, proving for weak competition against Apple and Samsung’s ecosystems.

The significance of Google having its own custom SoC is in designing the chip around its strategic objectives. Google, for example, designed and optimized its Tensor SoC with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) in mind – both of which are Google’s unique selling points (USPs). This will help distinguish Google’s Pixel products from rival products, giving Google the competitive edge with consumers interested in devices that prioritize ML and AI features and capabilities.

Meanwhile, other OEMs are exploring creating their own SoCs, including Samsung and Oppo. Samsung already produces an SoC, the Exynos chipset, but it is not optimized for their Galaxy line of smartphones as the chips are sold to other manufacturers for use in a wide range of devices – essentially making them general-use SoCs. If the speculation is correct, Samsung will likely continue to distance itself from Google by offering its own exclusive Android features to provide consumers a differentiated Android experience. In the interest of differentiation, a new wave of competition and innovation is dawning in the consumer devices industry, with in-house produced SoCs at the center.

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