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Qualcomm buys chip company founded by Apple execs for $ 1.4 billion

A company logo is superimposed over a cloud-raised mountain top.
Enlarge / A splash picture for Nuvia from the company blog.

Chipmaker Qualcomm announced a major acquisition today: it will buy Santa Clara-based silicon company Nuvia for $ 1.4 billion. Qualcomm intends to use Nuvia̵

7;s technology in future chip designs for a wide range of devices, from phones to cars.

Nuvia was founded in 2019 by three former Apple semiconductors. The startup has developed custom CPU core designs for servers, and its enterprise materials frequently refer to a mission to “reimagine” silicon design. But Qualcomm sees applications for Nuvia’s technology beyond servers.

Qualcomm’s press release states that Nuvia will deliver “step-by-step improvements in CPU performance and energy efficiency to meet the demands of next-generation 5G computing.” Qualcomm plans to use Nuvia’s technology in “flagship smartphones, next-generation laptops and digital cockpits, as well as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, augmented reality networking solutions and infrastructure.”

Like the recently launched Apple Silicon series of chips, Nuvia’s chips are based on the ARM architecture, but not fully licensed by ARM. This will allow Qualcomm to achieve better margins while developing chips that can help it compete with Apple chips more directly. Qualcomm already supplies ARM-based chips for machines designed by Samsung and Microsoft.

According to Crunchbase, the smaller company has fewer than 100 employees, so the takeover may be primarily about intellectual property. However, the press release notes that Nuvia’s founders “and their employees” will join Qualcomm.

The announcement included statements in support of the acquisition and where it may come from a wide range of technology companies, including Microsoft, Asus, Google, General Motors and LG, among others. In other words, this acquisition is part of a strategy shared by Qualcomm and its customers and partners to combat the growing perception that Apple chips are faster and more efficient.

In 2019, Apple sued one of Nuvia’s founders, Gerard Williams III, claiming he was trying to cripple Apple employees for the new venture before leaving his position at Apple. However, the case did not allege intellectual property theft.

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