Qualcomm buys data centre chip unicorn Nuvia to take on Apple

Qualcomm buys data centre chip unicorn Nuvia to take on Apple

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Qualcomm Technologies is to buy Californian datacentre chip design startup Nuvia for $1.4bn (€1.1bn). The move will enable high performance ARM-based chips to allow laptop and smartphone makers to take on Apple with its M1 chip.

The billion dollar deal makes the two year old company, set up by a former chip architect from Apple, the latest chip ‘unicorn’. It uses the instruction set architecture (ISA) from UK IP developer ARM but would compete with ARM licensees, icluding Qualcomm, with a higher performance implementation.

The initial design was aimed at high performance data centre design but Qualcomm is aiming to use the design team to boost the performance of the Snapdragon chipset in flagship smartphones, next-generation laptops and automotive digital cockpits, as well as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and  extended reality (AR and VR) chipsets such as the XR. Infrastructure networking is the last category mentioned, which does imply that the company will al least bring Nuvia’s Orion chip to silicon if not to the market.

“5G, the convergence of computing and mobile architectures, and the expansion of mobile technologies into other industries are significant opportunities for Qualcomm,” said Cristiano Amon, President and CEO-Elect of Qualcomm. “The Nuvia team are proven innovators, and like Qualcomm, have a strong heritage in creating leading technology and products. I am very excited to have them join our team. Together, we are very well positioned to redefine computing and enable our ecosystem of partners to drive innovation and deliver a new class of products and experiences for the 5G era.”

As part of the transaction, Nuvia founders Gerard Williams, Manu Gulati and John Bruno, and their employees will be joining Qualcomm. The deal gives Williams, the CEO of Nuvia, significant support from Qualcomm in his legal case with Apple. 

Next: The value of Nuvia to laptop, smartphone and car makers

“CPU performance leadership will be critical in defining and delivering on the next era of computing innovation,” said Williams. “The combination of Nuvia and Qualcomm will bring the industry’s best engineering talent, technology and resources together to create a new class of high-performance computing platforms that set the bar for our industry. We couldn’t be more excited for the opportunities ahead.”

Laptop makers

The deal was supported by Qualcomm’s wider eco-system of users, particularly from Microsoft and Google for their operating systems, as well as handset maker Samsung for its premium line of chips, Nokia-maker HMD, OnePLus and OPPO. Laptop makers Acer, Asus, Lenovo and HP particularly supported the acquisition.

“HP and Qualcomm have been strong partners, most recently on the Elite Folio, the world’s first pull-forward business convertible, launched at CES 2021,” said Alex Cho, president of Personal Systems for HP Inc. “The PC is more essential than ever, and we’re excited to see the industry and Qualcomm invest in innovation to support the needs of the 5G world.”

“With Qualcomm we delivered the world’s first 5G connected PC. As we look to create the advanced capabilities PC users demand, we are excited that the world class CPU development team from Nuvia is joining Qualcomm and we look forward to continuing to work together to deliver breakthrough PC experiences to users across the globe,” said Gianfranco Lanci, President and COO, Lenovo.

 “Together with Qualcomm we have delivered a new generation of thin and light always connected PCs and Chromebooks.  The acquisition of Nuvia will enable Qualcomm to continue to advance Snapdragon’s industry leadership and help Acer to continue to innovate and bring high performance, 5G connected devices to our customers globally,” said James Lin, General Manager, Notebooks, IT Products Business at Acer.


Automotive suppliers such as Bosch, Continental and Panasonic have also supported the deal for more processing in vehicles, along with car maker Renault and General Motors

“The automotive industry is evolving at an unprecedented pace of innovation. Bosch considers the adoption of new in-vehicle services and capabilities as one major driver for growth. Qualcomm is a strong partner to us. We see the need for high performance, power efficient platforms and appreciate Qualcomm’s ambition to push the boundaries of innovation even further,” said Dr. Andree Zahir, SVP for Infotainment and Connectivity at Bosch.

“The automotive industry is the new frontier exploiting the benefits of mobile technology innovations in high performance compute and connectivity and Qualcomm has always been at the forefront. The addition of Nuvia is welcomed as we continue to work with Qualcomm to deliver world class in-vehicle services and experiences,” said Thierry Cammal, Alliance Global Vice President of Renault’s Software Factory.

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