Qualcomm is outwardly plotting a return to the server chip market. The corporate is overhauling its CPU choices after acquiring the upstart chip design firm Nuvia in 2021. Nuvia was based on three high-ranking engineers from Apple’s chip division, with the unique purpose of designing ARM server chips (although it by no means launched a product). After Qualcomm purchased the corporate, it seemingly pivoted its new chip division from server CPU market chips to laptops and telephones. Now, in accordance with a brand new report from Bloomberg, Nuvia’s authentic purpose of constructing server chips shall be allowed to proceed.
The report says Qualcomm is “searching for clients for a product stemming from final 12 months’ buy of chip startup Nuvia” with Amazon Internet Providers as one of many first firms that “agreed to try Qualcomm’s choices.” Apple has confirmed to the world that ARM chips can scale up, and on laptops, they’ve been confirmed to be more efficient than the x86 chips from Intel and AMD. Corporations like Amazon have even begun making their in-house server chips primarily based on ARM’s licensable CPU designs.
Doing higher than ARM’s off-the-shelf CPU designs would be the actual problem for Qualcomm. Regardless of having a near-monopoly on high-end Android cellphone CPUs, Qualcomm is not actually a CPU firm. Qualcomm SoCs characteristic CPUs straight from ARM, the identical to many different distributors like Mediatek, Samsung, and Huawei’s HiSilicon. What retains Qualcomm on prime is all of the non-CPU components—primarily its hyper-aggressive licensing around its modems and mobile sufferers. Qualcomm owns sufficient fundamental mobile patents that you simply want a license from them to promote a cellphone it doesn’t matter what, and by bundling a less expensive patent license with its personal chips, Qualcomm can squeeze out the competitors. Qualcomm does some good work in GPUs and modem design, nevertheless it has by no means paid a lot consideration to the CPU as part of its SoC providing and is presently a number of generations behind the market chief, Apple.
Within the server market, Qualcomm’s enterprise will not be artificially propped up by mobile licenses. This can be a non-CPU firm instantly deciding to promote CPUs, and people’s merchandise should compete on their very own deserves. With potential clients like Amazon already constructing ARM chips, it is one hundred pc on Nuvia to ship a CPU that’s higher than the usual ARM designs.
Qualcomm final tried to interrupt into the server market in 2017 when it spent a short 12 months constructing “Centriq” server chips for Microsoft. That division was shut down within the face of a failed hostile takeover from Broadcom. It was canceled below a earlier CEO, although, and Qualcomm’s present boss, Cristiano Amon, needs to diversify Qualcomm’s product line. Nuvia CEO Gerard Williams, who was former Apple’s chief CPU architect for almost a decade, is now Qualcomm’s SVP of engineering. If the Nuvia chip designs are half as profitable as Apple’s industry-leading chips, Qualcomm might turn out to be a serious server chip competitor.
There is not any timeline for when Qualcomm’s server chips shall be accessible, however Qualcomm’s present schedule has Nuvia know-how exhibiting up in laptops in “late 2023.”