Saturday, September 25, 2021

Qualcomm will acquire Nuvia, server CPU maker led by ex-Apple chip architect

Nuvia, a server chip startup founded by a former Apple chip architect, will become part of mobile chip maker Qualcomm in a $1.4 billion deal announced this morning. While the deal must pass regulatory scrutiny due to its potential antitrust implications, it could be a significant development for both companies — notably because of a lawsuit filed by Apple regarding its founding, and because of Qualcomm’s unexpectedly broad plans for Nuvia’s technology.

Under the acquisition agreement, Qualcomm says that it will use Nuvia’s CPU technology across many of its products, ranging from smartphones and laptops to automotive applications, extended reality devices, and infrastructure networking products — a very different collection of businesses than Nuvia’s original target, servers. Chip architect Gerard Williams III founded Nuvia in 2019 after leaving Apple, apparently pursuing the server market due to a non-compete agreement that precluded him from competing against his former employer’s businesses. At the time, Apple made chips for smartphones and tablets, and was working on traditional computer chips, but had only a modest footprint in the server market.

Qualcomm’s acquisition of Nuvia is significant for technical decision makers for a variety of reasons, particularly the fact that — if consummated — the deal could enable Qualcomm to fully match Apple’s increasingly vast ambitions in the CPU development market. Although Qualcomm has created its own system-on-chip solutions for years, Apple has recently opened up a notable performance gap with its Mac-focused M1 processor, imperiling the San Diego company’s ability to offer competitive Windows PCs and servers. Acquiring Nuvia will give Qualcomm the ability to compete with Apple in the high performance computing market, and better match Apple’s class-leading numbers in the mobile industry, as well.

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