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Qualcomm to Acquire NUVIA: A CPU Magnitude Shift



This article will be updated in news style.

Today, Qualcomm announced that it will buy NUVIA for $ 1.4 billion. – Acquire the start-up company made up of industry veterans who were originally behind the creation of Apple’s high-performance CPU cores. The transaction has important implications for Qualcomm’s future in high-performance computing in both mobile and laptops with a possible re-entry into the server market.

NUVIA was originally founded in February 2019 and came out of stealth mode in November of the same year. The start-up was founded by industry veterans Gerard Williams III, John Bruno and Manu Gulati with extensive industry experience at Google, Apple, Arm, Broadcom and AMD.

In particular, Gerard Williams III was chief architect for over a decade at Apple, having been the lead architect on all of Apple̵

7;s CPU designs up to the Lightning core of the A13 – with the newer Apple A14 and Apple M1 Firestorm cores possibly also has been in the pipeline under his leadership.

NUVIA had been able to recruit and recruit a lot of top industry talent from various CPU design teams across the industry and had planned to enter the high performance computer and enterprise market with a new server SoC with a new CPU core called ” Phoenix “.

In particular, NUVIA had made aggressive claims about how their design would be able to significantly outperform the competition both in terms of raw performance and energy efficiency when it first came on the market – usually such claims should always be taken with skepticism, however due to the members of designed team and talent that have proven themselves in the form of Apple’s very successful CPU microarchitectures, there is much more weight and credibility for them compared to other startups.

As a new entity in the industry, the company always had an upward battle against the established giants, so even if they could have had the talent and technology, it is not a guarantee that they would have had success in the business. I admit that during the first company announcement back in 2019, I thought to myself that it would have been possible for the team to appear to be acquired by another great player, which ends up happening today.

Qualcomm’s gains and opportunities

Qualcomm’s acquisition of the entire company for DKK 1.4 billion USD can to a large extent be seen as a connection to NUVIA’s talent and claims and could mark an important shift in the industry and greatly expand the possibilities for the combined units compared to as if they were separate units.

From Qualcomm’s perspective, it’s a bit of a bittersweet deal following the company’s failed Centriq business, which back in 2018 had taken critical blows and cancellations as the company had to reduce costs and lay off a significant amount of people among their data center unit. .

At the time, Qualcomm still maintained a custom CPU microarchitecture team for server SoCs, having abandoned their efforts for custom CPUs for mobile devices a few years earlier, as Arm’s more energy efficient and better PPA (Performance, Power, Area) benefits by licensed Cortex were kernels. Eventually, the design teams jumped out over the years, leaving Qualcomm no longer capable of designing custom CPU microarchitectures, and on top of that, they are never that competitive either.

Qualcomm now acquires NUVIA giving them the opportunity to take advantage of start-up early work in the server room and possibly revive the company’s ambitions in the server room and give them another shot at the market.

In addition, the move also has major consequences in the consumer area, with Qualcomm claiming that NUVIA CPU design is expected to be implemented in flagship mobile SoCs and next-generation laptops as well as other industrial applications such as digital cockpits and ADAS.

In essence, Qualcomm wants to leverage NUVIA’s CPUs to replace Arm’s current Cortex CPU IP and gain a competitive advantage in terms of performance. This is an important point in the transaction as it means that Qualcomm has confidence that NUVIA’s CPU design and roadmap would be competitive or exceed Arm’s offerings and put the money and investment towards these goals.

There are also two further aspects to Qualcomm’s consideration of the acquisition: With Nvidia’s plans to acquire Arm Holdings announced last September, this would give Qualcomm an important level of independence and security over their future product roadmaps – just in case that Nvidia would make significant changes to the CPU IP licensing model.

Second, Apple’s recent move to drop the x86 in favor of their own Arm-based Apple Silicon SoCs, starting with the new Apple M1 and planning to make a complete product transition in the next 2 years, has largely pushed Arm ecosystem forward. While Qualcomm has to date released laptop-specific Snapdragon designs, they still rely on the Arms Cortex CPU IP and are currently unable to compete with Apple’s silicon. In essence, Qualcomm could consider this a major long-term bet in an attempt to establish itself as a de facto Arm silicon supplier in this market segment and alternative to Apple Silicon products. Earlier, NUVIA had commented that this would have been a possible long-term goal beyond their server room focus, but Qualcomm’s acquisition now greatly accelerates such plans.

Press release:

SAN DIEGO, January 13, 2021 / PRNewswire / – Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) announced today that its subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., has entered into a final agreement to acquire NUVIA for approx. 1.4 billion $ Before working capital and other adjustments. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act of 1976, as amended.

NUVIA consists of a proven team of world-class CPU and technology designs with industry-leading expertise in high-performance processors, Systems on a Chip (SoC) and power management for computer-heavy devices and applications. The addition of NUVIA CPUs to Qualcomm Technologies’ already leading mobile graphics processing unit (GPU), AI engine, DSP and dedicated multimedia accelerators will further expand the leadership of Qualcomm Snapdragon platforms and place Snapdragon as the preferred platform for the future of connected computing.

NUVIA CPUs are expected to be integrated across Qualcomm Technologies’ broad portfolio of products powered by flagship smartphones, next-generation laptops and digital cockpits, as well as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, augmented reality networking solutions and infrastructure.

As part of the transaction, NUVIA founders Gerard Williams III, Manu Gulati and John Bruno and their employees will join Qualcomm.

“CPU performance management will be crucial to defining and delivering the next era in computer innovation,” said Gerard Williams, CEO of NUVIA. “The combination of NUVIA and Qualcomm brings together the industry’s best technical talent, technology and resources to create a new class of high-performance computing platforms that set the bar for our industry. We could not be more excited about the opportunities ahead.”


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