NVIDIA buys chip designer Arm from SoftBank for record $40 billion

NVIDIA has agreed to buy chip designer Arm from SoftBank in a record US$40 billion deal. The purchase could reshape the highly competitive semiconductor and data center landscape.

By combining the American multinational technology company and the British chip designer together, NVIDIA will target the age of artificial intelligence by accelerating innovation and expanding into high-growth markets.

“Arm and NVIDIA share a vision and passion that ubiquitous, energy-efficient computing will help address the world’s most pressing issues from climate change to healthcare, from agriculture to education,” said Simon Segars, the CEO of Arm.

NVIDIA will utilise Arm’s CPU ecosystem to advance computing in cloud, smartphones, PCs, self-driving cars, robotics and edge computing. Arm’s designs have also started to play a larger role in the data center chip market through Amazon’s cloud industry and a number of startups, posing as competition to Intel Corp and Advanced Micro Devices.

NVIDIA will reportedly pay SoftBank US$21.5 billion in shares and US$12 billion in cash as well as a possible US$5 billion in cash or shares depending on Arm’s business performance. 

SoftBank, a Japanese multinational conglomerate holding company, will remain committed to Arm’s long-term success through its stake in NVIDIA, which is expected to be between 6.7% and 8.1%.

“This is a compelling combination that projects Arm, Cambridge and the U.K. to the forefront of some of the most exciting technological innovations of our time,” said Masayoshi Son, the Chairman and CEO of SoftBank.

After acquiring Arm for US$32 billion four years ago, the sale marks an early exit for SoftBank. A source told Reuters that SoftBank have held early stage talks about taking the Japanese technology group private, which could gain momentum after the sale of Arm.

While Arm has long been a neutral technology vendor of its chip architecture to Apple, Samsung, Amazon and other portable device providers, the sale will put these licenses under the control of a single player in the semiconductor market.

With the deal’s potential to cause unfair advantages over other licensees and conflicts of interest, NVIDIA’s Founder and CEO, Jensen Huang, assured that the neutral licensing model by Arm will be retained, and NVIDIA’s GPU and AI intellectual property will be licensed out for the very first time.

“Arm’s business model is brilliant. We will maintain its open-licensing model and customer neutrality, serving customers in any industry, across the world,” said Mr. Huang.

On top of this, NVIDIA will establish a new global center of excellence in AI research at Arm’s Cambridge campus in the United Kingdom by investing in an Arm-powered AI supercomputer, training facilities for developers and a startup incubator.

“AI is the most powerful technology force of our time … trillions of computers running AI will create a new internet-of-things that is thousands of times larger than today’s internet-of-people,” said Mr. Huang.

Powered by computing chips, AI supercomputers can write software, scale up workloads and reduce the time required to complete a task.

“While AI began in the data center, it is moving quickly to the edge … where smart sensors connected to AI computers can speed checkouts, direct forklifts, orchestrate traffic, and save power,” said NVIDIA in a statement, comparing the new research facility to a a Hadron collider or Hubble telescope for artificial intelligence.

NVIDIA predicted ‘there will be trillions of these small autonomous computers powered by AI, connected by massively powerful cloud data centers in every corner of the world’.

This signifies NVIDIA’s move to push beyond the data center and into the edge, which could continue their success in data center sales, which surpassed NVIDIA’s gaming revenue for the first time in August 2020.

“The computing unit is an entire data center now. We believe that the future computer company is a data center-scale company,” said Mr. Huang.

In April, NVIDIA completed its purchase of Israel-based Mellanox, which makes high-speed networking technology used in data centers and supercomputers.

The deal between NVIDIA, SoftBank and Arm is expected to close in approximately 18 months following regulatory approvals in Britain, the European Union, United States and China.

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NVIDIA buys chip designer Arm from SoftBank for record $40 billion


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Stuart Crowley

Editor, W.Media


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