Speculation is rife that Qualcomm could take a stake in processor IP giant ARM, if ARM’s proposed acquisition by Nvidia (from current owner Softbank of Japan) is rejected by competition regulators.
Qualcomm’s incoming CEO Cristian Amon told the UK’s Telegraph newspaper: “There is a lot of interest from a lot of companies within the ecosystem, including Qualcomm, to invest in ARM. If it moves out of Softbank and it goes into a process of becoming a publicly-traded company with a consortium of companies that invest, including many of its customers, I think those are great possibilities.”
This shows that Qualcomm is not seeking to replace Nvidia as a would-be purchaser of ARM, partly because such a deal would have all the same problems as far as the industry and the regulators are concerned. ARM’s processor core designs are used by a large number of chip providers, including Qualcomm and Nvidia, and despite the latter’s reassurances that it would leave the licensing model intact, there are fears that ownership by just one licensee would disadvantage all the others.
By contrast, a scenario where some of the larger licensees took investments in ARM would help to boost the UK-based firm’s resources for developing new architectures, while not handing control to just one chip firm. Of course, those able to invest would gain a privileged position compared to smaller licensees, but the largest customers already hold the greatest sway, especially as they can afford to invest in expensive architectural licences, and to influence the roadmap.
Amon said he has had discussions with other chip companies that share his interest in ARM investments. But Nvidia retorted that ARM needs more than an IPO and new shareholders to achieve its full potential. “ARM needs an infusion of new technology that it can provide to its licensees everywhere, which is why we stepped up and agreed to buy ARM,” a spokesperson said. “Our technologies and Qualcomm’s are highly complementary—we’d welcome Qualcomm’s help in creating new technology and products for the entire ARM ecosystem.”