Sources over at The Standard hint that discussions between NVIDIA and ARM’s parent, SoftBank have gone exclusive, with NVIDIA emerging as the sole interested buyer in the chip designer.
SoftBank apparently wants over US$40 billion in exchange for ARM, nearly double what it paid four years ago. With SoftBank based in Japan and ARM a major UK-based chip designer, reports indicate that the sale of ARM to NVIDIA could cause tensions in Japan-UK relationships, especially in the context of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
With talks heating up, it’s likely at this point that ARM might be in NVIDIA’s hands as early as next summer. This would be a seismic shift in the semiconductor industry. Mobile hardware manufacturers across the board, from Samsung to Huawei to Apple (and, indeed, NVIDIA with its Tegra lineup), leverage ARM CPU designs in their in-house SoCs and ones designed by Qualcomm.
NVIDIA’s spent years trying to enter the mobile space. Its greatest success, so far, has been the deal with Nintendo to leverage its Tegra X1 SoC in the Nintendo Switch. NVIDIA’s own Project Denver, a custom ARMv8 core failed to make waves at launch. Owning ARM would put NVIDIA in an axial position.
However, the sale could potentially invite antitrust legislation in a number of different jurisdictions: a situation where NVIDIA holds the entire smartphone market hostage wouldn’t exactly be looked upon favorably by regulatory agencies.
Moreover, the deal raises questions about the nature of Apple’s pivot towards ARM: The first ARM-powered MacBook is expected to launch later this year and Apple plans to shift all its MacBooks to the ARM architecture over the next couple years. Apple and NVIDIA have a terrible working relationship so it’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.