NVIDIA CEO mulls boosting smartphone GPUs following Arm deal

SoftBank Nears Deal to Sell Arm to Nvidia

The US$40 billion sale of British chip designer Arm to Nvidia by Japan's SoftBank is a disaster that will destroy its business model and should be blocked, Arm's co-founder said. Arm partners will also benefit from both companies' offerings, including NVIDIA's numerous innovations.

Here's an excerpt from NVIDIA's announcement. NVIDIA said Arm will continue to "operate its open-licensing model while maintaining the global customer neutrality that has been foundational to its success" while also working together with NVIDIA moving forward. AI is the most powerful technology force of our time.

"Our combination will create a company fabulously positioned for the age of AI", said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang in a press release. We're no experts on the microarchitecture of those data centre chips, but you can bet they've got some Arm IP in them, as will those of many other data centre chip players.

This deal will have NVIDIA payout $12 billion in cash for the design company, while it will also deal out $21.5 billion in stock to Softbank, giving the seller just south of 10 percent stake in NVIDIA once the transaction is completed. As part of the deal, Nvidia is forking over $US21.5 ($30) billion in stock, and $US12 ($16) billion in cash, of which $US2 ($3) billion will be handed over at signing.

The cash pile is a significant achievement for SoftBank, which half a year ago was struggling with a stock price in free fall and billions of dollars in write-downs on investments that turned sour, such as in US office-share company WeWork.

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But the Nvidia-Arm deal is not necessarily a foregone conclusion - now is not exactly a boom time for big tech mergers. The company will also build an AI supercomputer in Cambridge using Arm CPUs.

However, Hermann Hauser, who helped set up Arm, called the deal an "absolute disaster for Cambridge, the United Kingdom and Europe".

Uniting NVIDIA's AI computing with the vast reach of Arm's CPU, we will engage the giant AI opportunity ahead and advance computing from the cloud, smartphones, PCs, self-driving cars, robotics, 5G, and IoT.

Once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided, SoftBank might think of using its surplus money for further investments as well as more share buybacks, but until then the company is keeping ample cash on hand in case subsequent waves of infections occur, a person familiar with the company's strategy said. The other group the canned quotes are directed at is Arm customers, who will understandably be alarmed by the prospect of it being owned by a competitor. That said, should the deal go through, Nvidia buying Arm could mean a lot of major improvements to the Tegra chipset and could theoretically, be a good thing for Nintendo down the line. Conversely, any move by a U.S. company to purchase ARM would likely push the Chinese that much harder towards developing their own homegrown CPU architectures and industry. I'd not be surprised if the deal is killed sometimes in 2021, as we've seen in the past with Qualcomm trying to acquire NXP. They've been in the processor business since the 1980s, and if you've used a computer in your life, you've likely used something from Arm.

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