Qualcomm buys data centre chip unicorn Nuvia to take on Apple

January 14, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Qualcomm buys data centre chip unicorn Nuvia to take on Apple
Qualcomm has bought chip designer Nuvia for $1.4bn (€1.1bn) to boost the performance of its Snapdragon chips and allow laptop, phone and car makers to take on Apple

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

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