Qualcomm is betting big on a company that designs powerful but energy-efficient chips for data centers – $ 1.4 billion. The company announced on Wednesday that it has reached a deal to acquire Nuvia, a two-year-old start-up run by former Apple chip executives.
But Qualcomm won’t just target its newly acquired technology on servers. Instead, he plans to use Nuvia processors – the brains of devices – in everything from histo his and . That could mean much more powerful and battery-efficient Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Lenovo laptops and General Motors cars.
While Nuvia and Qualcomm both use Arm technology for their processors, Qualcomm licenses Arm’s cores while Nuvia designs its own. This allows startup to customize them for better performance and energy efficiency than Qualcomm, while making it less dependent.. This is important as mobile-style chips expand into more areas, 5G becomes mainstream, and consumers and businesses increasingly demand more battery life from their devices. Apple also designs its own Arm-based processor cores. Qualcomm had previously designed its own cores but moved away from this strategy.
“5G, the convergence of computing and mobile architectures, and the expansion of mobile technologies into other industries are significant opportunities for Qualcomm,” Cristiano Amon, Qualcomm’s president, said in a press release. “Together [with Nuvia], we are uniquely positioned to redefine IT and enable our ecosystem of partners to drive innovation and deliver a new class of products and experiences for the 5G era. “
Qualcomm has long been known as the world’s largest wireless chip maker, with customers from Samsung, Apple, and virtually all of the world’s major handset manufacturers. The goal of mobile chips has long been to be as powerful as possible while consuming little power. In recent years, Qualcomm has also pushed its components into computers, cars and various other products. It is likely that the new Samsungprogramming, expected , will use . And future phones could benefit from Nuvia’s high-performance, battery-efficient cores.
Acquisition of Nuvia by Qualcomm. While Apple’s first Arm-based computers received rave reviews, the first Windows PCs using Qualcomm chips were described as underpowered. That could change when the company integrates Nuvia’s technology into its processors. Arm CEO Simon Segars told CNET’s Stephen Shankland that Apple’s M1-based Macs would likely usher in the era of Arm-based PCs. Already, companies like Samsung and Microsoft are using Qualcomm processors in tablets and PCs instead of powerful but battery-hungry Intel chips.
“This acquisition and the pedigree of the Qualcomm team are now gaining positions [it] to go back to fully custom processor cores and go back to a proprietary processor architecture, which I think is the right technical direction for Qualcomm, ”noted Ben Bajarin, Creative Strategies Analyst.
Nuvia as a whole will help Qualcomm better compete with Apple, which has become a leader in chip performance. Apple’s A-series chips have long been powering its iPhones and iPads, and at the end of last year itthis . The new computers have powerful performance, but also reduce battery life, in large part thanks to the innovations Apple has packed deep into its chips.
Nuvia’s co-founders – Gerard Williams III, Manu Gulati, and John Bruno – previously held positions in Apple’s semiconductor design firm before starting their own business. Williams, who is the CEO of Nuvia, led the design of every Apple chip core from the A7 to the A12X. Prior to joining Apple in 2010, Williams spent 12 years at Arm, the company whose designs are used in virtually all mobile processors. Gulati and Bruno also spent time at Google before co-founding Nuvia. The three, along with other Nuvia employees, will join Qualcomm.
“Leadership in processor performance will be essential in defining and implementing the next era of computing innovation,” Williams said in a press release. “The combination of Nuvia and Qualcomm will bring together the industry’s best talent, technology and engineering resources to create a new class of high-performance computing platforms that set the bar for our industry.
The Nuvia buzz
Nuvia does not yet have a working product, but the company has caught the attention of many big players in the tech industry. In September, she raised $ 240 million from Mithril Capital of Peter Thiel, the venture capital arm of Dell, the founders of Marvell and various other companies. At the time, Nuvia said it expected to have a product in the hands of its customers in 2022. In total, Nuvia raised just under $ 300 million prior to the acquisition and has more than 200 employees.
“Nuvia was launched to reinvent silicon for a world creating exponentially more data than it can process,” Ajay Royan, founder and CEO of Mithril, said in a press release. After Mithril’s $ 70 million investment in September, which gave him a 12.5% stake in Nuvia, Royan joined the startup’s board of directors. “Its unique approach overcomes the false tradeoffs between energy efficiency and chip performance,” he added.
This has also been in Apple’s reticle. The iPhone giant filed a lawsuit against Williams in December 2019 for breach of contract. He accused him of creating Nuvia while he was still at Apple and said he recruited his former colleagues. Williams counterattacked in February 2020, alleging that Apple had done the same thing it had accused him of: trying to recruit its employees.
Despite Williams’ legal woes, Nuvia’s efforts to design its own cores reduce its dependence – and now Qualcomm’s – on Arm at a time when uncertainty surrounds the chip designer. Nvidia, which is in the process of purchasing Arm, competes directly with many other Arm customers, including Qualcomm. Longtime chip analyst Jim McGregor, of Tirias Research, noted in a blog post that the announcement of the Nvidia-Arm deal “sent shockwaves through the Arm ecosystem.”
“Having its own custom processor could … allow Qualcomm to switch to other processor instruction sets in the future if other concerns arise about Arm under Nvidia ownership,” he said. note.
Qualcomm’s press release regarding the acquisition contained quotes from its partners applauding the purchase. They included Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer; Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president of platforms and ecosystems at Google; TM Roh, president and head of mobile communications at Samsung; Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi, and executives of Acer, Asus, Bosch, Continental, General Motors, HMD, Honor, HP, Lenovo, LG, OnePlus, Oppo, Panasonic, Vivo, Renault, Sharp and Vivo.
“Compute performance, connectivity and energy efficiency are essential ingredients that make billions of Android and Chrome OS devices shine,” said Lockheimer of Google. “The addition of Nuvia expands Qualcomm’s capabilities in all three areas, and we’re excited to see the next generation of Snapdragon with Nuvia.”