NVIDIA is acquiring UK-based chip design firm Arm for $40 billion.
Once the deal goes through, NVIDIA will control the fabric of the core technology of standalone VR & AR headsets. Arm will become a division of NVIDIA, but its headquarters will remain in the UK.
In the PC sphere, Intel & AMD design their CPUs and sell them as products to builders & PC vendors. They use the x86 instruction set architecture (ISA) developed by Intel- which it licenses to AMD for free because AMD developed x86-64, the 64 bit extension.
Arm’s business model is different — it developed the ARM ISA, and designs ARM CPU & GPU cores. It licenses the ISA & its cores to other companies- like Qualcomm, Samsung, Huawei, MediaTek, and NVIDIA itself for its chip lines like Tegra (used in the Nintendo Switch).
Almost every smartphone uses either a Qualcomm, Apple, MediaTek, Samsung or Huawei SoC- all of which use the ARM ISA. Samsung uses ARM core designs “as is”, whereas Apple uses the ARM ISA but designs its CPU cores in-house.
Facebook uses Qualcomm chipsets in its Oculus Quest line, as do other standalone headsets like Pico Neo 2. Qualcomm’s licenses Arm’s CPU core designs, but heavily customizes them.
NVIDIA says it will “continue Arm’s open-licensing model and customer neutrality”, as well as investing in Arm’s R&D in the UK.