NVIDIA claims it is set to create “the premier computing company for the age of AI” by acquiring British chip maker Arm.
The US graphics card maker is buying Arm from current Japanese owner SoftBank, which – to the dismay of some UK tech commentators – took Arm out of British ownerhip by acquiring it for $32bn in 2016.
The deal is subject to regulatory approvals in the UK, China, the EU and US, and is expected to take 18 months to close.
NVIDIA has pledged to expand Arm’s R&D presence in Cambridge and continue Arm’s open licensing model and customer neutrality.
Those claims have been questioned by Arm co-founder Herman Hauser, however, who last month described the prospect of Nvidia’s takeover as a “disaster”, arguing that Nvidia’s ownership would alienate Arm’s other customers. In a Radio 4 interview this morning, he said any promises made on jobs were “meaningless unless they are legally enforceable”.
Having expressed his sadness at Arm’s initial sale to SoftBank, TechMarketView founder Richard Holway has bemoaned the prospect of Arm changing hands again, and had expressed hope that the smartphone chip giant might become a “true UK tech company” again via an IPO.
Writing in TechMarketView’s newsletter this morning, Holway called it a “sad day”.
“In my 40+ years as an analyst, I have seen so, so many UK tech, software and IT services company being acquired by overseas buyers They all make promises initially. But practically every HQ is eventually moved out of the UK and with it the beating heart of development etc,” he wrote.
Computacenter CEO Mike Norris is among the other UK tech executive to have expressed disquiet at the move.
NVIDIA will pay SoftBank a total of $21.5bn in NVIDIA stock and $12bn in cash for Arm. It will also issue $1.5bn in equity to Arm employees.
NVIDIA has unveiled a bold vision of how it sees the two firms operating side by side, claiming that combining its AI computing platform with Arm’s ecosystem would create the “premier computing company for the age of artificial intelligence”.
“Simon Segars and his team at Arm have built an extraordinary company that is contributing to nearly every technology market in the world,” said NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang.
“Uniting NVIDIA’s AI computing capabilities with the vast ecosystem of Arm’s CPU, we can advance computing from the cloud, smartphones, PCs, self-driving cars and robotics, to edge IoT, and expand AI computing to every corner of the globe.”
Huang added that “Arm will remain headquartered in Cambridge”.
“We will expand on this great site and build a world-class AI research facility, supporting developments in healthcare, life sciences, robotics, self-driving cars and other fields,” he said. “And, to attract researchers and scientists from the UK and around the world to conduct groundbreaking work, NVIDIA will build a state-of-the-art AI supercomputer, powered by Arm CPUs. Arm Cambridge will be a world-class technology centre.”
Alan Priestley, research director at Gartner, told CRN: “Arm’s business model is very different to Nvidia’s and it remains to be seen to what extent Arm will retain its independence and what level of separation there will be between design teams, or if design resources will be pulled into the US to support Nvidia’s core business.
“Many of Arm’s major customers work directly with Arm to optimise designs and this may be a challenge if the customer perceives that Nvidia is developing competitive products.”