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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Google has made significant progress toward developing its own processor to power future versions of its Pixel smartphone as soon as next year — and eventually Chromebooks as well, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The move could help Google better compete with Apple, which designs its own chips. It would be a blow to Qualcomm, which supplies processors for many current high-end phones, including the Pixel.

Details:

  • The chip, code-named Whitechapel, was designed in cooperation with Samsung, whose state-of-the-art 5-nanometer technology would be used to manufacture the chips, according to a source familiar with Google's effort. Samsung has also manufactured Apple's iPhone chips, as well as its own Exynos processors.
  • In recent weeks, Google received its first working versions of the chip. However, the Google-designed chips aren't expected to be ready to power Pixel phones until next year. Subsequent versions of Google's chip could power Chromebooks, but that's likely to be even further off.
  • In addition to an 8-core ARM processor, Whitechapel will also include hardware optimized for Google's machine-learning technology. A portion of its silicon will also be dedicated to improving the performance and "always-on" capabilities of Google Assistant, the source said.

A Google representative declined to comment for this story.

The big picture: The main processor, though just one component in a smartphone, plays an outsize role — helping determine the speed, battery life and capabilities of the device.

  • Apple was early to design its own processor, but many companies have moved in that direction, both for the cost savings and to better control their own destiny.
  • Google has been gradually building its semiconductor capabilities. The Pixel already includes custom Google chips for machine learning and image processing tasks, and the company has hired a number of chip experts from rivals, including Apple and Intel.

Yes, but: There's a lot that goes into a phone processor, including core processing along with graphics, communications and other features. A shortcoming in any one area could force Google to stick with an existing chipmaker.

Go deeper

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

Rep. Ro Khanna. Photo: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images

An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden meeting Quad amid own pivot toward Asia

Artists paint portraits of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Mumbai, India. Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

President Biden plans to meet this month with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India in a virtual summit of the so-called Quad, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: By putting a Quad meeting on the president’s schedule, the White House is signaling the importance of partnerships and alliances to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.