Chipmaker Qualcomm today announced a major acquisition: it will buy Santa Clara-based silicon company Nuvia for $1.4 billion. Qualcomm plans to use Nuvia’s technology in future chip designs for a wide variety of devices, from phones to cars.
Nuvia was founded in 2019 by three former Apple semiconductor executives. The startup has developed a custom CPU core design for servers, and its company materials often refer to a mission to rethink silicon design. But Qualcomm sees applications for Nuvia’s technology beyond servers.
Qualcomm’s press release states that Nuvia will “deliver incremental feature improvements in CPU performance and power efficiency to meet the demands of next-generation 5G computing.” Qualcomm plans to use Nuvia’s technology in “flagship smartphones, next-generation laptops and digital cockpits, as well as advanced driver assistance systems, augmented reality and infrastructure network solutions.”
Like the recently launched Apple Silicon chip line, Nuvia’s chips are based on the ARM architecture, but not fully licensed by ARM. This will allow Qualcomm to achieve better margins while developing chips that allow it to compete more directly with Apple’s chips. Qualcomm already supplies ARM-based chips for machines designed by Samsung and Microsoft.
The smaller company has fewer than 100 employees, according to Crunchbase, so the acquisition could mainly be about intellectual property. However, the press release states that Nuvia’s founders “and their employees” will join Qualcomm.
The announcement included statements supporting the acquisition and where it could go from a wide range of tech companies, including Microsoft, Asus, Google, General Motors and LG, among others. In other words, this acquisition is part of a strategy shared by Qualcomm and its customers and partners to combat the growing perception that Apple’s chips are faster and more efficient.
In 2019, Apple sued one of Nuvia’s founders, Gerard Williams III. He claimed he tried poaching Apple employees for the new venture before leaving his position at Apple. However, the suit did not allege intellectual property theft.