Nvidia tries to get its hands on Arm 6 August 2020
FOR WEEKS rumours have swirled that Nvidia, an American company which designs and sells computer chips, wants to buy Arm, a firm which produces the fundamental blueprints on which most such chips are built. Arm, which is based in Britain, has since 2016 been owned by SoftBank, a Japanese technology conglomerate, which bought it for an extraordinary $32bn—the highest price ever paid for a European technology company. On August 3rd news reports said that Nvidia was close to a deal. It may splurge as much, or more.
That is because Arm is not a normal company. The firm’s core products are a set of fundamental designs for computer chips called instruction-set architectures (ISAs). Arm sells access to ISAs to the likes of Apple, Qualcomm and Huawei, giving those firms freedom to design and manufacture Arm chips however they want. The powerful chips in Apple’s iPhones are the product of this process, as are those in just about every smartphone in the world. Arm also creates its own chip designs, which it calls “cores”, and licenses them to companies that need a cookie-cutter starting-point for chips to put in their devices, as well as cars, connected fridges or anything else hooked up to the internet. As a result, Arm is everywhere.
Oddly for the sole supplier of technology that undergirds the global semiconductor industry,…