Qualcomm acquires chip startup Nuvia for $1.4 billion

The big picture: Qualcomm has struggled to produce competitive chips beyond smartphones, with its laptop SoCs in particular failing to impress, while Apple was able to take the industry by surprise with M1. By acquiring Nuvia, the silicon giant hopes to bridge that gap in the coming years.

Qualcomm has announced it will acquire chip startup Nuvia to expand its strong position in the silicon industry and use the latter’s resources to develop better processors for smartphones, laptops, network infrastructure, and advanced driver assistance systems for cars.

The deal is estimated at $1.4 billion, and the company says it will be especially beneficial to “meet the demands of next-generation 5G computing.” Nuvia founders John Bruno, Gerard Williams, and Manu Gulati will also join Qualcomm after the acquisition, along with all their current employees.

The timing of the move is interesting, as Qualcomm announced earlier this month the current head of the silicon division, Cristiano Amon will replace CEO Steven Mollenkopf by the end of June. But even more interesting is that Nuvia was founded by veterans from Apple, Broadcom, Google, and AMD that were initially focused on developing energy-efficient Arm-based server chips.

Under the Qualcomm umbrella, that limitation is gone and could lead to the creation of the first true Arm competitor, which was recently purchased by Nvidia for $40 billion. It could also mean we’ll see custom core designs that would more easily compete with those from Apple.

On that note, Apple sued Nuvia co-founder and CEO Gerard Williams III in 2019 for poaching Apple employees, so there’s still the matter of resolving that legal dispute. Still, the industry seems to approve of the acquisition, as the press release is accompanied by multiple positive quotes executives from Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Xiaomi, HMD, HP, Lenovo, Oppo, Vivo, Panasonic, Renault and General Motors.

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