The following is very much a rumor, but if true, it would be absolutely huge. A UK publication is reporting that Apple is considering buying ARM Holdings — aka, the company behind most of the world’s mobile phone processors. If Apple were to buy them, it would likely reshape the mobile landscape completely.
To be clear, London’s Evening Standard is only citing “gossips” within the city’s financial district. But those gossips aren’t the only ones convinced there is something to this talk: ARM’s shares went up 8.1 points today, with more than 5 million shares changing hands by midday, the paper reports. The deal, would apparently see Apple buying ARM for something in the neighborhood of 5.2 billion British pounds, or roughly $8 billion in U.S. dollars.
Yesterday, during its earnings call, Apple revealed that it had $41.7 billion in cash in the bank — so this deal is certainly doable.
And if they did this, it would mean that almost all of Apple’s main competitors would likely have to find new chips to power their devices. While ARM doesn’t make the chips itself, it licenses out its technology to others who make the chips that go into Nokia, Sony, Samsung, HTC, and many, many other phones. This includes the iPhone and even the iPad, whose custom A4 chip is still based on ARM architecture. This also, obviously, includes phones that run Google’s Android software.
ARM architecture also is used in systems such as the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP, which are also iPhone rivals of a different fashion: in gaming. Basically, if Apple did this, and cut off the ARM (funny, no?) supply, it would be a Michael Corleone-type maneuver to take out its rivals.
Apple bought chipmaker PA Semi back in 2008. That acquisition led to the development of the A4 chip. But that acquisition also led to the departure of key team members from the PA Semi team, who left to form a new company, Agnilux, which Google just purchased. Yeah, this continues to get more and more interesting.
Update: As Gary notes in the comments, according to the Wikipedia page, “The company [ARM] was founded as a joint venture between Acorn Computers, Apple Computer and VLSI Technology (as Advanced RISC Machines).”