Cade Metz with a solid profile on Microsoft’s long-gestating effort to build their own custom chips. One humorous tidbit from a few years back:
But before Burger could even get to the part about the chips, Ballmer looked up from his laptop. When he visited Microsoft Research, Ballmer said, he expected updates on R&D, not a strategy briefing. “He just started grilling me,” Burger says. Microsoft had spent 40 years building PC software like Windows, Word, and Excel. It was only just finding its feet on the Internet. And it certainly didn’t have the tools and the engineers needed to program computer chips—a task that’s difficult, time consuming, expensive, and kind of weird. Microsoft programming computer chips was like Coca Cola making shark fin soup.
Burger—trim, only slightly bald, and calmly analytical, like so many good engineers—pushed back. He told Ballmer that companies like Google and Amazon were already moving in this direction
. He said the world’s hardware makers wouldn’t provide what Microsoft needed to run its online services. He said that Microsoft would fall behind if it didn’t build its own hardware. Ballmer wasn’t buying it.
But luckily (for Microsoft’s sake), Qi Lu – who sadly had to step away
from Microsoft for health reasons recently – then the head of Bing, was
buying it. And he stuck with it. A gutsy move at the time that may pay a lot of dividends in the end.
Lee says that Project Catapult will allow Microsoft to continue expanding the powers of its global supercomputer until the year 2030. After that, he says, the company can move toward quantum computing.