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With new Annapurna chip release, Amazon spurs questions about its plans

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Amazon opened the door to a host of questions about its plans in the chip world with the introduction this week of a new product from Annapurna Labs, the chip company Amazon bought last year.

Annapurna chips use the ARM architecture and companies like Netgear use them in products including Wi-Fi routers, home gateways and network attached storage devices.

So why would Amazon buy Annapurna and continue to sell chips from the company? That's the question without a clear answer.

It's possible that Amazon plans to use Annapurna products in some of the hardware it sells, like the Amazon Echo or the Kindle. So far it doesn't appear to be using the chips in its Fire or the Echo, both of which use Texas Instruments chips.

Amazon is, however, experimenting with using ARM chips in its cloud data centers. There has been lots of buzz over the years about ways that businesses can use servers running ARM chips more efficiently than the vast majority of servers which use Intel chips. In fact, Amazon has in the past sought engineers who can help it explore this path.

However, it hasn't publicly said it plans to use Annapurna chips that way.

Also, at least with one other acquisition, if Amazon were using the chips internally it might not want to continue to sell them to potential competitors. When Amazon bought Kiva Systems, a company that makes robotics used in warehouses, it appeared to transition that company into one that only serves Amazon.

For now at least, it appears ARM chips are just the latest product that the online retail giant is selling. 

Update: The fourth paragraph has been updated to clarify that Amazon has experimented with ARM chips in the data center. 

For more:
- read the Annapurna press release

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