Qualcomm makes the processors found in many of the world’s most popular smartphones. But the company’s chips aren’t exactly the fastest ARM-based processors available for mobile devices. Year after year Apple’s processors tend to carry that title, with the company A series chips tending to outperform the best Qualcomm has to offer, and the new Apple M1 processor even besting many Intel and AMD processors in the laptop space.
Now Qualcomm has announced it’s acquiring a new startup that could give its future chip designs a shot in the arm. NUVIA is a young company that was founded by chip design veterans with experience at Google, AMD, ARM, Broadcom and… Apple.
Qualcomm plans to buy NUVIA for $1.4 billion and use the expertise of its CPU design team for future Qualcomm processors.
One of NUVIA’s founders is Gerard Williams III. As AnandTech points out, he was chief architect for Apple’s CPU designs for more than a decade, having worked on that company’s chips until at least the Apple A13.
That alone doesn’t necessarily mean that Qualcomm will now have the expertise to match or exceed the performance and efficiency of Apple’s processors (especially since Apple, unlike Qualcomm, designs both the hardware and the operating system that takes advantage of it). But it probably doesn’t hurt.
Until now, NUVIA had primarily been focused on developing custom processors for servers, with the company promising last year to deliver a new “Phoenix” processor that offered higher performance than then-current Apple, Intel, AMD, or Qualcomm processors while consuming much less power.
Now Qualcomm wants to leverage the company’s technology for use in smartphone and laptop chips as well as in-vehicle systems and other applications. The acquisition of NUVIA could also give Qualcomm an opportunity to play in the server space, but that doesn’t seem to be as big a priority since it’s not a market segment that’s mentioned by name in Qualcomm’s press release.
As with most announcements of this type though, the acquisition isn’t a done deal yet. It still needs to be approved by antitrust regulators. So it’s unclear if or when NUVIA technology might find its way into Qualcomm chips.