Qualcomm Targets Distributed Computing Applications with NUVIA Acquisition

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By David McQueen | 1Q 2021 | IN-6081

Qualcomm has entered into an agreement to acquire startup company NUVIA for approximately US$1.4 billion. Founded in 2019 by some of the key architects behind Apple’s processor cores, NUVIA is an ARM-based CPU and technology design team with expertise in high performance processors, System on Chip (SoC), and power management for compute-intensive devices and applications. As part of the transaction, NUVIA’s founders and employees will join Qualcomm.

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Qualcomm Announces the Acquisition of NUVIA for US$1.4 Billion

NEWS


Qualcomm has entered into an agreement to acquire startup company NUVIA for approximately US$1.4 billion. Founded in 2019 by some of the key architects behind Apple’s processor cores, NUVIA is an ARM-based CPU and technology design team with expertise in high performance processors, System on Chip (SoC), and power management for compute-intensive devices and applications. As part of the transaction, NUVIA’s founders and employees will join Qualcomm.

NUVIA Acquisition to Deliver CPU Improvements to Meet the Demands of 5G Computing

IMPACT


The primary objective of the acquisition by Qualcomm is to leverage NUVIA’s industry-leading expertise, thereby providing the opportunity to augment and advance its Snapdragon platform technology roadmap. It is expected that once NUVIA’s CPU designs are integrated across Qualcomm’s Snapdragon portfolio, they will help deliver improvements in computing performance and power efficiency to support the growing needs of 5G products serving multiple industries. This marriage of technologies also fits with Qualcomm’s commitment to platform technology, helping to ensure that its Snapdragon chipsets continue to be among the best in the industry and drive toward being the preferred choice for future connected computing products and services. Indeed, the NUVIA acquisition will not only help extend this leadership drive, but also expand Qualcomm’s chipset portfolio and capabilities to create a new breed of platforms. Undoubtedly, Qualcomm’s vision is to push the boundaries of innovation to provide high performance compute, 5G connectivity, and power-efficient platforms.

The integration of NUVIA CPU designs will have implications across Qualcomm’s Snapdragon products, which currently provide high-performance computing to flagship smartphones and next-generation laptops, as well as to other industrial applications in industries looking to exploit the benefits of mobile technology innovations, such as digital cockpits, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), extended reality, and infrastructure networking solutions. The acquisition could also potentially provide Qualcomm with a golden opportunity to reinvigorate its ambitions in the server space, taking advantage of NUVIA’s work in the sector. This development comes at an optimal time as Qualcomm is gearing toward entering the wireless infrastructure sector using the open radio access network (O-RAN), involving them in private networks and 5G edge computing. The combination of Qualcomm’s expertise in cellular technologies (notably 5G), with NUVIA’s know-how in high-performance processing, could enable Qualcomm to build highly integrated, distributed, and connected computing solutions that would be extremely desirable for private network applications.

The acquisition was welcomed by a broad ecosystem of Qualcomm partners, including Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Lenovo, and General Motors. Many in the ecosystem see the partnership as an opportunity to leverage the innovation expected from future generations of Snapdragon mobile platforms, which promise to offer advanced high-end capabilities, enhanced performance, power efficiencies, and leading connectivity solutions. This will allow Qualcomm’s partners to take the lead in developing a range of next generation 5G devices and network solutions, enabling breakthrough premium experiences across a broad number of applications and verticals.

Redefining the Next Era of CPU Performance Leadership and 5G Computing Innovation

RECOMMENDATIONS


Qualcomm’s purchase of NUVIA could mark an important shift in the industry as, on the face of it, this merger of some of the industry’s leading platform technologies and resources shows all the signs of becoming vastly superior to the sum of its parts, further increasing Qualcomm’s level of CPU performance leadership. The resultant combination makes it possible for Qualcomm to build on its already powerful chipsets and launch a new class of computing platforms that are expected to set the bar for the industry, covering 5G as well as the convergence of computing and mobile architectures. However, for this convergence to happen, 5G connectivity will have to be positioned as a central feature in the design, offering always-on, always-connected experiences. This converged approach is not only applicable to consumer devices but will also be the foundation for distributed and edge computing that will form the basis for the enterprise digital transformation.

While the acquisition greatly increases Qualcomm’s competitiveness and prospects in the mobile and laptop markets, it will also provide significant opportunities in adjacencies as mobile technologies continue their expansion into other industries—notably automotive, mobile edge computing, and private networks.

In addition, Qualcomm no doubt sees this as an opportunity to gain competitive advantage in terms of performance versus ARM- core platforms, putting faith in its amalgamated CPU designs and roadmap. Indeed, Qualcomm CPUs have been historically designed in-house, apart from its latest version (Kryo), which is considered as a semi-custom design of ARM’s Cortex cores. This move could  give Qualcomm a greater level of independence from ARM cores and control over future product roadmaps. Moreover, it comes at a time when the ARM ecosystem has been given a significant boost by Apple, who is making the switch in its laptops from Intel chips to create Macs using ARM-based silicon to benefit from implementing a common architecture across all its devices. Also, the timing could not be more ideal as the industry is gearing toward servicing private networks with end-to-end solutions that are able to handle Information Technology (IT), Operation Technology (OT), and Communication Technology (CT) under the same computing platform. The combination of Qualcomm’s 5G expertise with NUVIA’s innovative server CPU approach will be essential for building such solutions.    

However, as Qualcomm is not an archetypal  “captive” vendor such as Apple, it provides a more open platform that will offer a highly integrated modem-application (ModAP) processor design devised to deliver 5G cellular connectivity for smartphones, notebooks, and beyond. For example, to address private networks opportunities, Qualcomm could offer end-to-end integrated connected computing implementations with the aim of simplifying the technology for system integrators, thereby enabling them to focus on what they do best: software and protocol stacking. This move will no doubt help the industry accelerate the digital transformation of the enterprise and promote the large-scale deployment of connected computing across large, medium, and small enterprises.  

The acquisition pushes markets to use these integrated connected computing solutions into areas such as automotive, server markets, mobile edge computing, and private networks. Ultimately, having integrated connected computing in such devices and applications not only helps to lower price points, but also reduces power consumption while improving efficiencies. What is also clear in the industry is that partnerships could be crucial to success, paving the way to bring together top-class engineering, system integration, and connectivity expertise. Such an approach will surely lead to the delivery of enhanced next generation connected  compute experiences, a crucial step towards establishing a wider 5G ecosystem that extends beyond smartphones and into a variety of vertical marketplaces and applications.

 

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