Update, July 31 (9:50 am ET): Bloomberg reports that talks between NVIDIA and SoftBank have progressed and a deal could be reached in the next few weeks.
I’m an NVIDIA fan. The company is best known for making uber-powerful GPUs that almost single-handedly drive the gaming industry, but it also makes things like machine learning servers, self-driving cars, robots, and the best Android TV box ever made. I think all of their products are great and even enjoyed using NVIDIA-powered phones before Qualcomm drove the company out of the industry.
I’m Team NVIDIA for most things. Not this thing, though.
Call me a fanboy, call me whatever, but I like the company and the things it makes. But I hate the idea of NVIDIA controlling Arm, the company that makes the reference design that every phone chipmaker uses to build processors.
This is all just a rumor, and like a lot of rumors might not even be remotely true. But we do know that SoftBank — the Japanese firm that has control over Arm Holdings — isn’t afraid to buy and sell other companies. Hearing a SoftBank executive publicly say that the company was considering selling Arm Holdings would not surprise me one bit.
It’s also not surprising that NVIDIA would be interested in acquiring Arm. When you think of NVIDIA, you probably think about graphics cards. The company also makes a really good ARM CPU-based chip that combines a fast processor with GPU cores for computing and it’s one of the most powerful ARM-based chips you can buy today. Forget powering a phone or tablet, something like a Jetson Xavier NX can run a server or power a self-driving car.
NVIDIA would still license ARM designs to everybody, but those designs would slowly change.
NVIDIA could still license the design if it were in charge and would because it’s lucrative. Forcing whoever buys Arm to continue the licensing program will surely be one of the stipulations of sale regulators in the U.S. and U.K. — Arm is based in Cambridge — place on any acquisition. I’m not worried that NVIDIA would cut off Qualcomm or Apple or Samsung from making CPUs based on ARM designs.
I’m worried about the designs themselves. NVIDIA — or any other company that makes ARM chips today — would want future designs to benefit its current development. I think NVIDIA makes a heck of a chip, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Apple and Qualcomm also make a heck of a chip and those companies wouldn’t be very happy with changes that force them to work around issues.
A neutral company that doesn’t build chips needs to buy Arm and pump it full of cash.
Update, July 31 (9:50 am ET) — Bloomberg reports talks between NVIDIA and SoftBank have advanced.
According to an unnamed source via Bloomberg, talks between NVIDIA and SoftBank have been ongoing and the two companies are close to working out a deal. It’s also noted that, according to this source, NVIDIA is the only company currently interested in buying ARM.
Representatives from NVIDIA, SoftBank, and Arm Holdings declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg.