Late last week, the Statesman reported that Samsung is shutting down its CPU design division at one of its Austin R&D facilities, laying off 290 employees. This corroborates month-old leaks that the company was downsizing its CPU design branch, responsible for Samsung's in-house Exynos series chipsets.
For a bit of context, until recently, Samsung's higher-end Exynos chipsets have used a custom design based on a license from ARM. Like some chips from Qualcomm and Apple, Samsung opted to make its own tweaked "custom" cores, (ostensibly increasing performance/customizing for their particular uses) rather just than sticking to ARM's licensed Cortex designs like Huawei and MediaTek. Also, note that Samsung recently licensed some graphics tech from AMD to improve GPU performance in future chipsets.
Although we don't have explicit confirmation that all of the employees laid off were specifically tied to chipset design, and we don't know what specific responsibilities the Austin research center may have had, the Statesman has confirmed that the "Central Processing Unit project" in the Austin research center is being shut down.
There is a new point of view. Instead of giving up the design of the CPU, Samsung has disbanded the “Mongoose” design team and formed a new team to develop a new and efficient CPU architecture.
— Ice universe (@UniverseIce) October 2, 2019
Previously, noted leaker Ice universe claimed that the "Mongoose" design team was to be laid off without entirely killing in-house CPU design. Instead, the company would be developing a newer, more efficient architecture, though analysts and others have recently speculated that Samsung could switch its Exynos products entirely to ARM reference designs for the CPU, as it did with the upcoming Exynos 980.
With so few details known, the news of the shutdown and layoffs honestly raises more questions than it answers. We've reached out to Samsung for more information regarding the future of its Exynos chipsets, and we'll be sure to update our coverage when we know more.
Following our inquiry, Samsung provided us with the following statement:
"Based upon a thorough assessment of our System LSI business and the need to stay competitive in the global market, Samsung has decided to transition part of our U.S.-based R&D teams in Austin and San Jose. With over 20,000 U.S.-based employees focused on design, R&D, investment and manufacturing for next-generation technologies at the cutting edge, Samsung remains committed to supporting and growing our American workforce that are an integral part of the company’s success."
Not much is revealed, and we're still left with unanswered questions. Most importantly, we don't know how this will ultimately impact future Exynos chips. The company told us that it will continue its efforts with the Exynos lineup, so it doesn't sound like it will give up on its own chipsets any time soon.