Today Qualcomm is announcing that the company has completed the acquisition of NUVIA, a start-up company consisting of industry veterans who were behind the creation of Apple’s high-performance CPU cores, and who were aiming to disrupt the server market with a new high-performance core called “Phoenix”.

The acquisition had been announced only several weeks ago in mid-January, so the whole process has been extremely speedy in terms of timeline.

“Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that its subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., has completed its acquisition of the world-class CPU and technology design company, NUVIA for $1.4 billion before working capital and other adjustments.”

Today Qualcomm even went as far as put out a concrete roadmap for new SoCs using the newly acquired IP from Nuvia:

“The first Qualcomm Snapdragon platforms to feature Qualcomm’s new internally designed CPUs are expected to sample in the second half of 2022 and will be designed for high performance ultraportable laptops. “

Sampling in late 2022 would require a tape-out in early 2022, and a design-in essentially as soon as possible following the acquisition today. The whole process seems extremely fast and aggressive in terms of timing, pointing out that Qualcomm is putting a lot of emphasis on the project.

Qualcomm had shown a lot of positive reaction to Apple M1, I quote our interview with Alex Katouzian from back in December in terms of their reaction to the competitor design:

“[…] the laptops these days are really moving towards mobile. The camera is super important. The audio is super important. The battery life is super important. Not having a fan is super important. Portability, thinness, connectivity, always-on always-connected, all those traits of mobile are moving to the PC.

And people say, imitation is the best form of flattery. Look at look what happened with the [Apple] M1. Their product pitch is almost a duplicate of what we've been saying for the past two or three years.”

NUVIA’s prompt acquisition and immediate disclosure of plans to tackle the high-performance ultraportable laptop market could be seen as Qualcomm’s direct response to the new Apple M1 powered laptops and to compete with their high-performance CPU cores.

Article Update:

We had the opportunity to have a call with Qualcomm’s Keith Kressin, SVP and GM, Edge Cloud and Computing, answering several questions as for company’s current plans for the NUVIA team. Qualcomm views the acquisition as an important strategic addition to the company’s design capabilities, filling a gap in IP design where the company for several years now had been relying on external IP such as Arm’s Cortex cores. Keith made important note of this ability to have total in-house design control over every IP block in an SoC, allowing the company better flexibility to respond to market demands and creating competitive products.

The immediate goals for the NUVIA team will be implementing custom CPU cores into laptop-class Snapdragon SoCs running Windows, and enable the company to offer higher performance CPUs than would have been otherwise possible. When asked about plans for other product stacks and the possibility of using both in-house CPUs as well as continuing to use Arm Cortex CPU IP for lower segments, it was stated that Qualcomm will continue to evaluate every metric and choose the best fitting design that makes the most sense for that product category.

We asked the team if Qualcomm would continue to invest into NUVIA’s original plans to enter the server and enterprise market, with a response that this wasn’t the main goal or motivation of the acquisition, that Qualcomm however would very much keep that as an open option for the future, and let the NUVIA team explore those possibilities. Keith here acknowledged that it’s a tough market to crack, and that Qualcomm had made no definitive decisions yet in terms of long-term planning.

Related Reading:

Source: Qualcomm Press Release

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  • webdoctors - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    I'm confused, in the prior article NUVIA was started because the founders couldn't do a server chip at Apple only laptops and phones. Now QCOM bought them and have them not do server chips but do laptops? er ok.
  • Yojimbo - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    The company founders are getting a heck of a lot more money from Qualcomm to not make server chips than they would have got from Apple to not make server chips.
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    The other problem: NUVIA makes a great CPU core for servers / datacenters. Now what? Can they afford tape-out at TSMC or even Samsung? Can they convince enterprise customers to integrate a (literally) first-gen CPU? The validation costs (time, money, resources) alone might've been a bigger friction point, too. They've never sold a single CPU, much less an enterprise-class CPU.

    I'm thinking of security patches, multi-year contracts, reliable supply, support & service, optimization, etc. Was NUVIA *really* ready for that? I wonder.

    NUVIA would've had an excruciating battle going at it alone, I'm afraid. At least for the time being, NUVIA has a win-win. They get loads of cash, instant & essentially guaranteed capital (aka a department budget now), instant TSMC / Samsung connections & resources from an established current vendor, relative freedom to pursue a server / datacenter CPU on a longer timescale if necessary, and likely the legitimacy to attract more talent + more engineers.

    That is, NUVIA was likely always going to end up either in an unusual licensing situation (a la Arm) or a very pricey // risky phase of selling new, relatively untested CPUs to trillion-dollar hyperscalers. So I almost have to wonder if this was always their plan.

    Venture capital is good, but it's not necessary reliable nor enough nor patient. :(
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    Right on time. Qualcomm's CEO Cristiano Anon had hinted at an aggressive NUVIA timeline a week ago, pending the acqusition (interview here: )

    >NUVIA’s prompt acquisition and immediate disclosure of plans to tackle the high-performance ultraportable laptop market could be seen as Qualcomm’s direct response to the new Apple M1 powered laptops and to compete with their high-performance CPU cores.

    One great note: this is exciting to hear, as AMD & Intel have rather lackluster responses for the next few years (unless K12 ever does anything more than sitting in a bin). Zen4 at TSMC's 5nm, Meteor Lake at Intel 7nm: it's not going to address the fundamental perf-watt advantage x86 has. Hybrid has a small chance, as it's pairing high-power x86 with the worst cores imaginable: low-power x86. Thus, from Qualcomm & Apple, the 2022 / 2023 laptop market should be quite exciting.
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    *fundamental perf-watt advantage Arm has.

  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link


    A deeper sigh.
  • Silver5urfer - Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - link

    2022 and 2023, that's 2 years in the future. How would you even know what is going to happen at that point of time ? AMD's Cezzane will crush every single CPU in the market for the BGA use and throw machines, be it M1 (which already got beaten by Renoir) and the future Tiger Lake, Intel is not showing any solid evidence to believe in them. Latest 10nmSF is not even being used for the new Xe iGPU, so how can I even trust them since Intel's major weakness is in the Fab engineering right now. Whereas on the other hand Zen4 is on track on TSMC 5nm, without any bullshit Biglittle (Intel's tactic to get into the SMT performance lost for the lack of Ring Bus successor for more core CPUs) for Desktop market.
  • ikjadoon - Thursday, March 18, 2021 - link

    Do you qualify every post with ultra-specific niches until you feel "technically correct, predominantly wrong"?

    "for BGA use" = lmao
    "got beaten by Renoir" = Renoir that consumes 2x the power and 2x the heat?
    "the future Tiger Lake" = Tiger Lake H that consumes 4x the power and 4x the heat?

    Apple has released two new microarchitectures every year ~for a decade~. AMD & Intel can barely release one a year and sometimes, they'll both sell you reheated uarches from last year. x86 has such slow cadence that smartphone SoC manufacturers must chuckle, especially for their performance cores.

    Here's the tiny quad-core-perf 3.2 GHz // 6.3W M1 beating the 16-core 5.05 GHz // 20.6W $799 5950X in single-threaded performance:

    Nobody believes Intel's future looks good. Who said that? It's clear Apple outclassed AMD & Intel & Qualcomm & Arm's stock cores; Apple has a much more serious intention to change perf-watt than the rest combined.

    Apple gets TSMC's newest nodes, so that limits AMD's advantages perennially. Today, Intel has the worse nodes, Qualcomm / NVIDIA / AMD fight over the middle, and Apple gets the best nodes. The middle & worst might change, but Apple's trillions are unfortunately going to shut out anyone with mere billions for the near future.
  • Dug - Thursday, March 18, 2021 - link

    You first claim how would you even know what's going to happen in the future, and then go on to make predictions. Great.
  • ikjadoon - Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - link

    >NUVIA’s prompt acquisition and immediate disclosure of plans to tackle the high-performance ultraportable laptop market could be seen as Qualcomm’s direct response to the new Apple M1 powered laptops and to compete with their high-performance CPU cores.

    2019: A13 (Lightning)
    2020: Apple M1
    2021: Apple M2
    2022: Apple M3 vs NUVIA Phoenix
    2023: Apple M4 vs NUVIA ...

    NUVIA's 2022 core is faster than Apple's 2019 core, which is exciting but also needs to be put in perspective. I hope NUVIA can iterate as rapidly as Apple: two new microarchitectures per year, one high-performance focused and one efficiency / power-focused. None of this AMD / Intel cadence of 1.5 to 3 years between new microarchitectures.

    Hopefully Phoenix has its 2nd-generation successor already in deep development.

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