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Apple uses the Cortex-A8 in its iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad. Apple is rumored to be considering an acquisition of ARM. Such an acquisition could shut out smart phone competitors like Microsoft and Google.  (Source: ARM News)

A leaked roadmap reveals a quad-core 1.2 GHz ARM processor coming in 2013.  (Source: Samsung via SlashGear)
There's plenty of ARM drama this week

Mobile chipmaker ARM Holdings licenses the architecture used by a host of mobile parties, including Google, Apple, and Microsoft.  ARM is a British firm, based out of Cambridge, England.  This week rumors broke in the London financial community that American electronics company Apple was considering an acquisition of ARM.

ARM currently is valued at over $8B USD, while Apple has $41.7B USD in cash stockpiles.  Thus an acquisition would be considered feasible.

It's unclear whether an acquisition would be allowed by international regulators.  If it was approved, it's further unclear how Apple would be allowed to use its new acquisition to its advantage.  It could, in theory, try to deny licenses to Google, Microsoft, and others.  However, this might land it in trouble with antitrust regulators.  Another possibility is that it could simply license its competitors older designs, while funneling advanced designs into its mobile platforms -- the iPhone, iPods, and iPad.

SAI Business Insider says that the rumored acquisition is unlikely to occur.  It points out that in Apple's long history the business has seldom acquired large organizations and isn't prepared to integrate an entity as big as ARM into its business model.  It also doesn't buy that Apple needs any chip technology that it doesn't already license or own.

Finally, it points out that ARM's rivals like Qualcomm could easily take the company's place should Apple acquire ARM and shut competitors out. 

In other ARM news, leaked slides from Samsung reveal ARM's upcoming roadmap for the next few years.  The highlight is a 1.2 GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 design called Aquila that will be unleashed in 2013.

Other designs on the slides include the Taurus, the single-core 1GHz S5PV210 Cortex-A8 chip which will arrive later this year; Mercury, a 600MHz single-core Cortex-A5 available either this year or next; Orion, an 800MHz Cortex-A9 coming next year; Pegasus, which will land late next year (a single-core 1GHz Cortex-A9); Hercules, a 1GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 which will appear early 2012; and landing in 2012 - 2013 Venus, which is a 600MHz Cortex-A5 dual-core chip and Draco, another dual-core but at 1.2GHz Cortex-A9 speed.

It looks like the next couple years will be full of drama and excitement of ARM, regardless whether Apple or others (Google?) makes a bid for the company.

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if this buy out goes through
By shin0bi272 on 4/22/2010 11:30:49 AM , Rating: 2
Apple will be able to increase their strangle hold on their customers. Of course this could increase competition in the market place too and that could be good for us all in the long term. Short term though I would imagine an immense panic or price increase in the smartphone market.

RE: if this buy out goes through
By Iridium130m on 4/22/2010 11:45:39 AM , Rating: 2
given the fact that ARM doesn't produce chips, but licenses their designs out to other chip manufacturers, if Apple buys ARM, they will have the power to severely disrupt all of the smartphone manufactures by simply not licensing out the chip design anymore, forcing everyone to redesign to an alternative chip architecture (intel atom maybe?).

This would be a scary acquisition and while I'm not a big fan of government intervention, this is one that I hope the government would take a serious look at.

RE: if this buy out goes through
By FaaR on 4/22/2010 3:38:21 PM , Rating: 3
You don't run a successful business by killing it.

Besides, antitrust laws would prevent Apple from strangling its competitors, so it'd make no sense to try in the first place. And that's assuming it's even allowed to buy ARM to begin with (which is a dubious proposition at best).

RE: if this buy out goes through
By Iridium130m on 4/22/2010 5:56:39 PM , Rating: 2
agreed, BUT, I wouldn't put it past Steve Jobs to have that agenda.

By seamonkey79 on 4/22/2010 10:35:10 PM , Rating: 2
It worked well enough for Microsoft, why wouldn't Apple start to figure out that buying someone, trashing everything that can compete with you, and using what you want, can work sometimes?

RE: if this buy out goes through
By Calin on 4/23/2010 2:59:07 AM , Rating: 2
Nobody says Apple wants to run a successful bussiness in selling ARM designs. And it would run contrary to Apple's philosophy to give others what it has.

RE: if this buy out goes through
By akugami on 4/22/2010 12:44:13 PM , Rating: 3
I was thinking more along the lines of a percentage share buy. Maybe along the lines of a 20-30% share. Enough to let it get a little bit of a head start in developing ARM chips and where ARM is headed while not having to actually manage the company itself. Considering how prevalent ARM is becoming such an investment also could reap monetary benefits outside of any competitive advantages.

Keep in mind that this would be similar to the arrangement of A.I.M. and the PowerPC CPU. The fact that IBM still actively invests in PowerPC (Wii, 360, super computers) shows that while ultimately Apple had to move from PowerPC it was and is a viable business.

RE: if this buy out goes through
By Wolfpup on 4/22/2010 4:09:19 PM , Rating: 2
That makes a lot of sense...I could see that happening more than a buyout.

I don't think a buyout would be totally nuts though-like it could give them a competative edge (obviously they'd be insane to quit being ARM if they did buy it, given that ARM AFAIK is one of the two biggest CPU architectures in the world, the other being x86).

RE: if this buy out goes through
By alanore on 4/22/2010 1:32:17 PM , Rating: 2
I doubt Apple would be able bully its competitors with ARM. It would be under EU regulations, MS is not even allowed to ship IE as the default browser in the EU.

It would be a lose lose situation for Apple, it would be forced to honour the remainder of their contracts with Apples competitors. Then it wouldn't be allowed to act in an anti competitive manor. All the time it would be funding the R&D for its competitors.

Too much hot water. If it wasn't subject to EU regulations then maybe.

Holmes brother makes smart phones?
By superPC on 4/22/2010 11:07:54 AM , Rating: 1
Such an acquisition could shut out smart phone competitors like Microft and Google. (Source: ARM News)

on a more serious note, is't there other smart phone processor maker out there? this won't even hinder other smart phone IMHO.

RE: Holmes brother makes smart phones?
By wicktron on 4/22/2010 11:10:58 AM , Rating: 2
on a more serious note, is't there other smart phone processor maker out there? this won't even hinder other smart phone IMHO.

Right because Intel and AMD have such great low power SOC portfolios.

While this would be great for Apple, this would harm the ENTIRE mobile and ultra-SFF products industry.

RE: Holmes brother makes smart phones?
By superPC on 4/22/2010 11:22:17 AM , Rating: 2
Well like the article said, there's always qualcomm (granted they used a lot of ARM architecture but things like this can persuade them to make new architecture perhaps even something better). then there's IBM, other chip maker that can fill the blank before Intel and AMD.

RE: Holmes brother makes smart phones?
By William Gaatjes on 4/22/2010 2:15:01 PM , Rating: 2
ARM is a very very good architecture...

By Calin on 4/23/2010 3:04:31 AM , Rating: 2
And a very very common architecture - stopping ARM's licensing would break this uniformity in hardware

By DanNeely on 4/22/2010 11:37:55 AM , Rating: 3
MIPS still makes low power SoC's, but the fact that the smart phone industry has (almost?) entirely gone to ARM speaks volumes about their competitiveness in higher end embedded devices.

By PandaBear on 4/22/2010 5:20:48 PM , Rating: 2
There are a lot of low power high performance architecture out there. ARM is popular because it is dense and license to everyone, so no one is locked down to one physical vendor. Plus the development tools for ARM is excellent unlike smaller competitors, but that doesn't means if ARM is acquired other competitors will not take its place.

By Etern205 on 4/22/2010 11:08:47 AM , Rating: 2
Show me where is says on that leaked image a quad arm cpu will be coming in 2013 cause I just don't see it.

RE: pic
By HotFoot on 4/22/10, Rating: 0
RE: pic
By Anoxanmore on 4/22/2010 12:01:08 PM , Rating: 2
That would be because most applications are not optimized for more than two cores, yet. :)

RE: pic
By FaaR on 4/22/2010 3:06:35 PM , Rating: 2
ARM chips go into A LOT more devices than just phones, tablets and netbooks. There's games consoles of course - every portable Nintendo console since the GBA used an ARM CPU, and absolutely loads of embedded systems in harddrives, cars, radars, manufacturing/process control, on and on and on.

The need for more performance in these applications will keep increasing just like it has in computing in general, otherwise you'd see every gadget out there still using Z80s and 6502s... ;)

RE: pic
By bruce24 on 4/22/2010 12:43:20 PM , Rating: 2
I was wondering if he posted the wrong picture myself. This picture from ARM seems to show they are planning for quad core versions of the A9.

Wait a minute...
By gralex on 4/22/2010 1:34:24 PM , Rating: 2
I know it's a long shot, but sometimes the scoop is in what we aren't being told.

First we heard AMD. Now ARM... I bet the endgame is somebody completely irrelevant, like nVidia! (For example: maybe Apple is asking them for a custom-made Tegra 2, and nVidia just can't be bothered)

"Merely playing with lots of crazy guesses I'd be ashamed to tell you. Yet none of them, I suspect, will be half as crazy as the truth."
-2010: Odyssey Two

RE: Wait a minute...
By ET on 4/22/2010 6:28:10 PM , Rating: 3
I'd say that Via is a good aquisition target for Apple. I don't know what Via's market value is, but it's probably not very high, since the company is not performing well. On the other hand, it has IP and knowledge that's useful for Apple. It has S3 Graphics, which can help Apple produce a SoC with its own graphics core. It also has x86 IP (though that might hinge on a patent agreement with Intel which could be void if Via is bought; I don't know), which could be useful for some Apple products, or at least as leverage against Intel.

RE: Wait a minute...
By gralex on 4/29/2010 4:47:27 AM , Rating: 2
So it was Intrinsity in the end... Now I wonder if they are gonna be nagging nVidia for a SoC?

How long til....
By sintaxera on 4/22/2010 11:16:31 AM , Rating: 2
I can see it now....Apple encouraging/helping ARM develop a new desktop CPU to bring all their platforms together. Ipad, Iphone, and desktop all running compatible CPU's. It would be what...the 4th time Apple screwed their customer base and changed platforms? Crazier things have happened!

RE: How long til....
By seamonkey79 on 4/22/2010 10:40:41 PM , Rating: 2
Would also allow them to limit what you could run on a Mac and require you to purchase or at least download any and all software from iTunes, and of course, all of the software would have to be written and compiled on an Apple approved compiler, which would add money to their pockets... I think it's a good way for them to go, very much in line with their current market scheme.

By Fox5 on 4/22/2010 1:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
ARM licenses the ARM ISA to other companies, ARM can no more revoke those than Intel could revoke x86 from AMD.

Qualcomm, Marvell, and Samsung are all ARM isa licensees, and develop their own chips. It's likely they would continue to be able to, they just wouldn't get access to updated versions of the instruction set, but they could probably still make their own add ons. ARM could live on as a vendor independent ISA if all its current licensees get together to decide its future direction.

By DanNeely on 4/22/2010 4:35:34 PM , Rating: 2
Only a minority of ARM licensees actually create their own cores though; most simply package misc other functions around a pre-designed ARM core and sell the resulting SoC. The handful of big players that do design their own cores would likely be able to survive, but all the small fry who just repackage ARMs existing designs would be SoL.

By PAPutzback on 4/22/2010 12:38:57 PM , Rating: 1
I got my first smartphone (Palm Treo Pro) a year ago so I am new to the phone processor issue. But all the cool kids seems to be getting Androids and from what I am reading The Incredible and EVO are going to be hot items when they release. So does ARM have any connection with these phones, code, hardware or otherwise?

By sapiens74 on 4/22/2010 1:11:50 PM , Rating: 2
Its Arm Based

Not to much Apple please..
By William Gaatjes on 4/22/2010 2:11:15 PM , Rating: 2
I am afraid that the days of the ARM architecture are counted if this continues. Some idiot manager will take the decision to revoke all licensing of the ARM architecture to third parties. Now the ARM architecture is omnipresent. Do not turn it into a forgotten architecture. It is way to good to go the way of the dinosaurs.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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