Mobile silicon chip maker Qualcomm has announced its acquisition of CPU startup NUVIA for $1.4 billion, a deal that would definitely make competitors such as IBM, AMD and even Apple sit up and take notice. The deal could be perceived as one final feather on the cap of outgoing CEO Steve Mollenkopf, who retires in March after 26 years with the company.
The deal brings NUVIA’s design engineering expertise as well as its senior leadership, which is made up of engineers from Apple. This group was part of the team that had worked on the custom ARM CPU development for the latest MacBooks and iPhones. The deal should give Qualcomm access to several new markets and categories.
The brains behind NUVIA
For those who are hearing about NUVIA the first time, this startup hit the headlines when it raised $53 million in Series-A funding late in 2019 and immediately followed it up with another fund infusion of $240 million in Series-B via Mithril.
Given the background of the founding engineers, these reports indicated that just as Apple’s M series of chips for its laptops became talk of the town due to its efficiency on energy and performance, NUVIA would follow suit with their CPUs and manage a higher level of performance with limited power requirements.
Going forward, computing devices would be seeking highly efficient processors as these data centres require substantially higher power due to increased demand for AI-based application and cloud-led computing. This is where the early investors on NUVIA were hoping for some magic. However, with Qualcomm’s investments, they have made enough money and allowed for a high quality consolidation.
In a press statement, Qualcomm says that NUVIA’s technology will be incorporated across the company’s line of chips, with its leadership centred around its 5G-focused Snapdragon chip. The company’s founders and employees are expected to join, and the deal must be approved by U.S. regulators.
“Creating high performance, low-power processors and highly integrated, complex SoCs are part of our DNA,” says Jim Thompson, Chief Technology Officer of Qualcomm.
“Adding NUVIA’s deep understanding of high-performance design and integrating NUVIA CPUs with Snapdragon – together with our industry-leading graphics and AI – will take computing performance to a new level and drive new capabilities for products that serve multiple industries.”
While NUVIA was being hailed as a startup worth following and investing into, the fledgling company had its own share of challenges. One of them related to a legal battle that its co-founder Gerald Williams III was fighting with his former employer Apple over policies related to hiring.
Apple had filed a civil lawsuit in 2019 claiming that its former employee’s attempt to recruit erstwhile colleagues to NUVIA was a breach of contractual obligations. A claim that Williams fought suggesting that this was not so. The case is pending hearing at the California Superior Court of Santa Clara since then.
Whether this courtroom drama had anything to do with NUVIA’s decision to exit and join forces with the bigger Qualcomm, is something we cannot be sure about. Some of our readers would, however, recall that Apple was making moves that could result in them abandoning Qualcomm chips.