Nuvia, a server chip startup led by a former Apple chip architect, will become part of mobile chip maker Qualcomm in a $1.4 billion deal announced this morning. While the deal will face regulatory challenges due to its potential antitrust implications, it’s a major development for all of the companies — notably because of a lawsuit filed by Apple regarding its founding, and because of Qualcomm’s unexpectedly broad plans for Nuvia’s technology.
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Under the acquisition agreement, Qualcomm says that it will use Nuvia’s CPU technology across many of its products, ranging from smartphones and laptops to automotive applications, extended reality devices, and infrastructure networking products — a very different collection of businesses than Nuvia’s original target, servers. Chip architect Gerard Williams III notably founded Nuvia in 2019 after leaving Apple, apparently pursuing the server market due to a non-compete agreement that precluded him from competing against his former employer’s businesses. At the time, Apple designed its own chips for smartphones and tablets, and was quietly working on chips for traditional computers, but had only a modest footprint in the server market.
Qualcomm’s acquisition of Nuvia is significant for technical decision makers for a variety of reasons, particularly the fact that — if consummated — the deal could enable Qualcomm to fully match Apple’s increasingly vast ambitions in the CPU development market. Although Qualcomm has created its own Snapdragon system-on-chip solutions for years, Apple has recently opened up a notable performance gap with its Mac-focused M1 processor, imperiling the San Diego company’s ability to offer competitive Windows PCs and servers. Acquiring Nuvia will give Qualcomm the ability to compete with Apple in the high performance computing market, and better match Apple’s A-series mobile chips, which have delivered class-leading specs for smartphones and tablets.
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