Battle Lines Are Drawn: Qualcomm’s Latest Acquisition to Challenge Apple, Intel

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The quest to gain supremacy creates a butterfly effect for sure. With the challengers and the champion pulling out all stops to realise their ambition, there are many twists and turns on the race to the top. Amidst this, the news from Qualcomm’s corner is one that has the potential of becoming a table turning proposition for its adversaries!

In the recent development, chip manufacturer Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) looks to have pulled a coup by acquiring Nuvia, a chip start-up founded by former Apple veterans. The deal, worth $1.4 billion, will see the promising silicon design firm’s tech put into use into Qualcomm’s smartphone, laptop, and automotive processors.

Presently, Qualcomm is one of the leading lights in the Android phone spheres. But the presence of bigwigs like Apple and Intel, among others, ensures everyone in the mix faces vigorous competition in the smartphone and computing space.

The deal with Nuvia now certainly looks to be a major thrust by Qualcomm to re-establish a top-of-the-pile position in chip performance. For the US chipmaker, the news also comes at a time of change in the top brass, where Cristiano Amon, current president and head at Qualcomm’s silicon division, will be replacing outgoing CEO Steve Mollenkopf in the coming months.

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There are several other factors that make this deal such a tantalizing prospect. Going into the nitty-gritty, let us dissect why the acquisition has gathered such widespread interest.

Apple Sued Nuvia’s CEO

It is a fact that the deal has grabbed so many eyeballs, notably also because of a lawsuit Apple filed regarding its Nuvia’s founding and now because of Qualcomm’s surprisingly huge plans for the firm’s tech.

The twist here is that Nuvia was founded back in 2019, by none other than former Apple silicon executive Gerard Williams III, along with colleagues Manu Gulati and John Bruno. The break was far from friendly, as Apple sued now Nuvia’s Chief Executive Williams, alleging he had recruited Apple employees to his chip design firm while still being employed at the tech giant. The matter is all the more pronounced because it was Williams, who was the chief architect then, and behind several major Apple CPUs and chipset offerings during his time at the company.

Since then, several years of high-profile patent licensing litigation with rival Apple and regulatory authorities has ensued. For Nuvia, founded by three of Apple’s former top semiconductor executives in charge of iPhone chips, the discord is perhaps exacerbated more due to the impressive body of work compiled by Williams.

A peek at Williams’ profile would see one being in awe of him being one of the prime workers behind the Cyclone, Typhoon, Twister, Hurricane, Monsoon, Vortex, Lightning, and Firestorm CPUs. These CPUs all featured in the Apple A7, A8, A9, A10, A11, A12 series, A13, and A14 respectively. Aside from being Apple’s chief architect for Apple’s Mac hardware, Williams in particular has put in solid work, having also been an Arm employee, working on the Arm Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A15 CPU cores.

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At the moment, Nuvia is been working on a custom CPU core design that it has claimed would be used in server chips.

Why Is It Significant

The deal is all the more significant because of another facet. It could help lessen Qualcomm’s reliance on Arm, which is being poached by rival Nvidia for $40 billion.

From its current chips catalog, the majority of Qualcomm’s use computing cores licensed directly from Arm. Even though Nuvia’s cores use Arm’s architecture too, they are mainly custom designs. What this essentially means for Qualcomm, is that using more custom core designs could be a move that will in turn help lower some licensing costs to Arm, making a potential move to a rival architecture that much smoother in the long term.

Qualcomm’s Gameplan Ahead

Nuvia CPUs are expected to be integrated across Qualcomm Technologies’ broad portfolio of products. From powering flagship smartphones, next-generation laptops, infotainment systems, and driver-assistance systems, the chipmaker looks to have a strategy for all of them going forward. They are also going to be used in digital cockpits, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, extended reality, and infrastructure networking solutions, the San Diego firm has detailed.

The plans will also empower future Windows on Arm laptops by giving them a heady performance boost. It is worth noting that while laptop makers have traditionally turned to Intel Corp for processors, Qualcomm has been a major player in supplying PC chips to big shots such as Samsung and Microsoft Corp.

While the acquisition is going to face regulatory scrutiny due to its potential antitrust implications, Qualcomm looks assured and has surely jumped headfirst into laying out their future plans in the best possible manner.

There may be a few risks on the road, but the overall feeling is one of positivity, which has been successful in generating excitement among Qualcomm’s leading customers including Microsoft, Google, Samsung, and several automotive, and phone companies. The planned acquisition of Nuvia will no doubt enhance Qualcomm’s ability to compete in the “high performance compute” arena. Given the pedigree involved in the deal, Nuvia and Qualcomm look set to etch their own success story in the coming years.

Stay tuned to this pace for more updates.

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