Nvidia in Advanced Talks to Acquire SoftBank-owned Chip Maker ARM For $32 Billion

Image for Representation

Image for Representation

Buying ARM would consolidate graphics giant Nvidia’s position at the centre of the semiconductor industry.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: August 1, 2020, 11:05 AM IST

US chip-maker Nvidia is reportedly in advance talks to acquire SoftBank-owned UK chip company ARM in a cash-and-stock deal worth at least $32 billion. According to a report in the Financial Times on Friday citing sources, the talks began after “Nvidia approached SoftBank, which has been pursuing a series of other asset sales, about a potential acquisition”. The proposed deal includes “both cash and stock and that it valued ARM at above the $32bn price that SoftBank paid for the business in 2016”. Both Nvidia and ARM did not comment on the report. The British chip designer powers major mobile processor from companies like Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung and Huawei.

Apple last month confirmed its break up with Intel chips for ARM chips in its Mac desktops, announcing it will transition the Mac to its world-class custom silicon to deliver industry-leading performance and powerful new technologies. Buying ARM would consolidate graphics giant Nvidia’s position at the centre of the semiconductor industry. SoftBank bought ARM for $31 billion in 2016. Microsoft makes an ARM-based Surface laptop and a version of Windows designed for ARM. According to The Verge, Nvidia would make an interesting owner for ARM. While Nvidia is the leader for GPUs, it has little to do with CPU design or mobile hardware.

Nvidia said this week it delivered the world’s fastest Artificial Intelligence (AI) training performance among commercially available chips, a feat that will help big enterprises tackle the most complex challenges in AI, data science and scientific computing. Nvidia A100 GPUs and DGX SuperPOD systems were declared the world’s fastest commercially available products for AI training, according to MLPerf benchmarks. The A100 Tensor Core GPU demonstrated the fastest performance per accelerator on all eight MLPerf benchmarks.

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Apple Silicon to Power Future Mac Devices, First Product to Arrive This year

The cat is finally out of the bag. The Mac range is going to transition to ARM-based processors, custom made by Apple. Making the announcement at this year’s online-only WWDC 2020 (Worldwide Developers Conference) event, CEO Tim Cook quoted it as a ‘historic change’ for the Mac. The company also confirmed that it will be launching its first ARM chipset-based Mac product later this year and has planned for a complete transition in the next two years.

Details about the chipset haven’t been shared yet and while this might sound like bad news for Intel, Apple said that it is not completely moving away yet. In fact, it still has a few upcoming Mac products in the pipeline.

Apple believes that its new custom chipset will be able to deliver great performance at the same time being power efficient. This would also be great for developers as they can now develop apps across Apple’s product lineup. Yes, with the new ARM-based chipset, Macs will now be one step closer to run iOS and iPad apps natively in macOS in the future.

With the announcement of its new chipset plans, Apple also announced the next version of macOS which is dubbed ‘Big Sur’. It is a big redesign of macOS including new icon design and updates to built-in apps like Messages and Maps. The company is also planning to update its range of pro software, to support the new chipset in macOS. Even third party software like Microsoft Word and Excel will be going to be supported on the new chips. Apple also showed a demo where Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop were able to handle a 5GB PSD file with ease.

To begin its transition to ARM, macOS Big Sur will include and updated version of Rosetta. That name might sound familiar, as it was used in the past during the shift from PowerPC to Intel-based Macs. Apple says that Rosetta 2 will have the ability to translate existing apps at install time. So in case, a developer hasn’t updated their app, they should technically still work with minor changes required.

Developers can begin tweaking for the upcoming transition to ARM with a Developer Transition Kit that will include a small device in the shape of an Apple TV with desktop-level hardware including 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. There is also a quick start program for developers which will include documentation and sample code, along with access to labs around the world so they can transition existing apps to Apple’s custom chipset.


Apple WWDC 2020: iOS to iPhoneOS? Intel Makes Way For ARM Macs? All This Might Be On The Menu

The annual Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) starts later today, in an all new virtual avatar. While the format changes from human interaction to an all-digital one, WWDC remains as important as ever. This is where, as it is every year, the company is expected to give us a sneak peek at the future of the software side of things—iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, macOS, tvOS, App Store, services, apps and more. This year however, there is that extra edge, potentially, that has us hooked. While WWDC isn’t usually the base for new hardware announcements, we could however see a slight diversion from the usual. There is the possibility of the confirmation of the ARM powered Mac computing devices, which could represent a big blow for Intel.

There is a lot to expect from this virtual version of WWDC 2020, which starts with the traditional keynote later today and then proceeds to host developer sessions over the next few days. The WWDC 2020 runs virtually through till June 26, and there will be more than 100 engineering sessions, there will be more than 1,000 Apple engineers on hand in the virtual developer forums and there will also be the Apple Design Awards. WWDC’s significance resides in the fact that this is not just a peek at the next line of software for Apple’s line-up of products, but also the company’s close interaction with the developer community. These could be some of the key announcements to look forward to at WWDC 2020.

iOS becomes iPhoneOS?

It would actually make sense. There has been a lot of excitement, mostly emerging from the social media platforms, that Apple could rename iOS to iPhoneOS as we head towards what was till now known as iOS 14. Whatever the naming theme, expect iOS 14 to be a considerable upgrade over iOS 13 as we know it. We could see a new design language for iOS, after a largely consistent experience for years. There will be the expected under-the-hood updates for greater stability and better performance, but the clamor for more features is quite evident. Could see full-fledged widgets for the home screen? Could we get the functionality that allows us to set third party apps as defaults? That would give Apple a significant advantage in the antitrust arguments. Maybe offline Siri functionality? iMessage getting even more functionality? Maybe even dynamic wallpapers, much like macOS?

All said and done, expect a significant chunk of the attention and resources to be spent on making iOS (or iPhoneOS) even more secure. That could include additional privacy functionality for Safari, for instance.

There has long been the rumor that the next iPhone line-up will integrate LiDAR technology, and if that is true, we will see considerable conversation around the AR apps and experience on an iPhone with the next update.

A new direction for Macs?

It is almost as if the ever-annoying rumor mill was partially broken in the lead up to WWDC 2020. There were absolutely no speculations or leaks about what the next macOS will be like, or what will it be called. Yes, the macOS naming remains a big deal, and we still don’t know what will succeed Catalina.

But there are important things at hand. There have been persistent reports that Apple could announce the shift from Intel’s chips to custom designed ARM processors. The project is codenamed Kalamata and it is expected the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which also makes chips for the Apple iPhone and iPad, will be making the new Mac processors as well. These will be based on the A14 chip that is expected to power the next Apple iPhone. This could give Apple a massive advantage in terms of bringing the marriage of hardware and software even closer together, which will give a massive boost to the user experience, something where Apple already has a massive advantage over the Microsoft Windows 10 based laptops.

Services could become a bundle

Apple could be looking to further strengthen its services business, by offering users a bundle subscription. Right now, you pay separately for Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+ and so on. A single subscription bundle, with perhaps the option of also sharing with families, could just be the convenience users need. But for that, the likes of Apple News+ will have to roll out globally for this to be really useful.

More software, as expected

At WWDC 2020, expect Apple to also announce updates for watchOS, tvOS for the Apple TV and could give the HomePod smart speaker the versatility of plugging into third-party music streaming services—much like how Amazon allows us to use Apple Music by default on the Echo line-up of smart speakers and smart displays.