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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.

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