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Apple To Buy ARM? 695

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the rumor-mill-working-overtime dept.
gyrogeerloose writes "An article in the London Evening Standard claims that Apple has made an $8 billion offer to acquire ARM Holdings. For those few Slashdotters who don't already know, ARM makes the processor chips that power Apple's iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. However, ARM processors are also used by other manufacturers, including Palm and, perhaps most significantly, companies building Android phones. This explains why Apple might be willing to spend so much on the deal — almost 20% of its cash reserves. Being able to control who gets to use the processors (and, more importantly, who doesn't) would give Apple a huge advantage over its competitors."
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Apple To Buy ARM?

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  • Please don't... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by will.perdikakis (1074743) * on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:25AM (#31938158)
    ARM is one of the better generic processors for embedded and small systems. Apple purchasing them may (read: will) limit the usage of ARM or price them out of the market.

    As much as I appreciate what Apple is doing with mobile computing, a move like this (assuming they change the current state of ARM) is going to affect the industry (even markets that do not directly compete with Apple) in a non-positive way.

    I hope this doesn't happen, but if it does, I hope they leave the current ISA/availability/pricing scheme alone and just use ARM resources to improve their own products, but that is unlike Apple.
  • Ahem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:25AM (#31938162)

    That should be "its" competitors. And it's unlikely they'd flex their muscles much in the direction of stifling the companies that use the ARM design.
    More likely: Apple wants to extend ARM in directions that the current ARM management is balking at.

  • Re:Be very afraid. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Suiggy (1544213) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:30AM (#31938238)
    Yeah, I can totally see Apple setting things up so that they get exclusive use of the new ARM processor architectures for a year before other corporations are able to license them.
  • by binarylarry (1338699) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:30AM (#31938246)

    Apple doesn't seem to mind fucking it's existing customers over for personal reasons, I doubt they'll hold back against competitors like Google and others.

    Dear god I hope this falls though.

  • Re:Be very afraid. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@nOSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:31AM (#31938262) Homepage
    Now this is scary. One small step for Apple towards their global technocratic dictatorship.

    I know the cultists will shriek, but if Apple had won the PC wars back in the early 80's I have no doubt we would all be using desktops that are exponentially less powerful than the ones we have now. Similarly, if Apple were to monopolize the smartphone market (not that I think they will ever be able to, even with ARM), the rate of progress will slow.
  • Am I the only one... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vikingpower (768921) <exercitussolus@gma i l . com> on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:35AM (#31938330) Homepage Journal
    ..who thinks that is short-sighted from Apple ? Apple has, since its very beginnings, been about two things: computers, i.e. finished computers - and software. In the long run, buying Arm is a beginning of turning Apple into a conglomerate. And conglomerates are not only unwieldy and difficult to manage - they don't survive for very long.
  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:35AM (#31938344)

    Apple is far more controlling than Microsoft these days.

    But we all let Apple get away with murder.

    Apple is like the hot girl that gets pulled over for speeding. The cops let her go because she's pretty.

  • by epdp14 (1318641) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:41AM (#31938414) Homepage
    No kidding. If Microsoft can get pounded for pushing IE too hard, can you imagine the fallout from Apple telling Palm (or an Android manufacturer), "Oh, you were going to put these in a phone?!?! The phones name doesn't start with 'i'? That'll be $(Original price * sqrt(Steve Jobs current mojo level expressed in number of 1/2 liter units))
  • Qualcomm, now Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:41AM (#31938418)

    Last week there was a rumor that Qualcomm was going to buy ARM. Now there's speculation about Apple.

    It's possible that Steve Jobs took the Qualcomm rumors seriously, and bid for ARM just to make sure that Qualcomm didn't end up buying the company.

    http://www.minyanville.com/businessmarkets/articles/arm-holdings-apple-nokia-oem-semiconductors/3/8/2010/id/27176 [minyanville.com]

  • by Tom (822) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:44AM (#31938462) Homepage Journal

    And obviously you think that everyone who licensed the design is a stupid idiot who never went to law or business school, and would sign a licensing deal that can be revoked for no reason at any time.

    The real business world is a little more complicated than that.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:48AM (#31938512)
    Apple will probably have to pay large sums to end the licensing contracts, but that may be worth it to harm competitors. Even if they can't do that, they would be able to not-license any newly developed processors.
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:49AM (#31938516) Journal

    We do? There have been tons of complaints on Apple's strategy in terms of the App Store, and now lately the programming language limitations in the SDK, as well as every time they try to silence a blogger. There have been lots of voices of moving to Android Market, and so on.

    Well, unless you just read the Apple fansites of course. But that gives an as objective view on things as just reading a Linux fansite, or Windows fansite (yeah, they exist).

  • Re:Be very afraid. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by snooo53 (663796) * on Thursday April 22, 2010 @09:57AM (#31938670) Journal
    Would that really be such a bad thing (Apple winning the PC wars)? I would trade a less powerful CPU for a better UI and consistent hardware any day, assuming the price was similar. Those seem to be the two things that differentiates Apple from their competitors. However, I wonder if they had been dominant if there would have been such a push at Apple for a better "user experience" in the first place.
  • by Xest (935314) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @10:04AM (#31938786)

    Look at the fuss the EU made over the Oracle/Sun deal because of MySQL and there's far more competition in the database market.

    This deal wouldn't stand a chance of getting past the EU without at minimum severe restrictions on what Apple could do with ARM once they took it over.

  • Re:Only 8? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @10:14AM (#31938988) Homepage

    I'd love to be a fly on the wall of Steve Jobs' office if Google offered more.

    (Or even Microsoft - aren't they rumored to be moving their data centers to ARM [slashdot.org]?)

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @10:15AM (#31939014)
    I doubt Apple would want to buy ARM and then kill the sales to ARM's other customers. If they're going to spend $8 billion just to piss it away by killing ARM's revenue they'd be better served by spending the money to subsidize iPhone sales by cutting the price.

    Even as a Mac & iPhone user I don't want Apple to acquire ARM. It could set back the competition considerably while they move to new chips or architectures ... and competition is what drives all the device makers to improve their products. Without someone to chase and/or breathing down their neck Apple won't be driven to make advances in their products at the pace they should.
  • by WebCowboy (196209) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @10:38AM (#31939354)

    As has been stated before, Apple has had a relationship with ARM holdings since it was founded (as Apple had equity in the company when it was founded out of the ashes of the Acorn computer company). Apple didn't abuse its position then. Of course, Apple wasn't so big and successful at the time, whereas now it dominates in mobile media players and holds a great deal of market share with the iPhone.

    Here is an interesting thing though...history seems to be repeating itself, just with different players. In the 1970s MOS technologies created the 6500 series of microprocessors--the 6502 being the famous, very long lived design. They had a fab and produced their own designs but also ended up licensing the design out to others (the two biggest being Rockwell International and Western Design Center, the latter was founded by a former MOS employee who held a patent on part of the 6502 design that entitled him to a license). Just as the 6502 started taking off in the desktop calculator market Texas Instruments went and started making calculators too--using their own chips that suddenly became much more expensive for third parties.

    Jack Tramiel at Commodore was facing possible extinction of his entire electronics line because of the TI-induced shakeout (Older folks, especially from Canada, might remember Commodore as a maker of typewriters and filing cabinets and calulators). Pretty much all calculator makers who used TI chips suddenly found it impossible to compete with TI and those who couldn't re-engineer their designs quickly or rely on other products quickly died (MITS probably wouldn't have been pushed to do the Altair if it hadn't been pushed out of the calculator market by TI). Jack didn't want to fall victim to a bullying chip maker and figured to compete Commodore had to make its own chips like TI, so Commodore bought MOS technology.

    Here is an interesting fact: Commodore continued licensing to Rockwell and WDC, and continued to make and sell chips openly on the market, including to direct competitors in the personal computer market. Every single Apple I and Apple II and 8-bit Atari (from the 2600 game up to the 130XE computer) and 8-bit Acorn/BBC Micro was built around a chip design controlled ny Commodore (and maybe even manufactured in their fab). Though Commodore made for a very tough competitor, there is no evidence they overtly abused their position as a chip supplier to dominate the market and in fact Apple and Atari both outlived Commodore. So, it is possible that with Apple owning ARM this scenario could happen again.

    So how will history repeat itself? Apple cannot ever revoke current licensees rights to use their current designs, but they could "pull a TI" (even against TI ironically) and either make it very expensive to continue licensing or could refuce to renew, meaning competitors/third-parties could not make NEW ARM-based chips. Alternatively, they could go the "Commodore way" and maintain ARM as a separate (though wholly owned) company that keeps operating as normal, and all our Android phones would be safe.

    Of course, Jobs runs the show and being the techno-Nazi that he is might be tempted to go for world domination/industry control by cutting android hardware sales off at the knees. However he is still pretty smart and knows that would be a very bad idea. Consider:

    * ARM designs are used EVERYWHERE. Industrial processors, embedded computer systems and so on where Apple doesn't compete--in fact the majority of ARMs revenue relies on non-mobile/wireless business. They'd lose more than they'd gain by shutting out those licensees.

    * If they were overtly selective in suppliying chips or licensing their IP to others then they'd face the wrath of antitrust regulators that are much more aware and active in high-tech now.

    * They could cut out Android or WinMo hardware makers but both those platforms can be ported quite easily to other hardware. In fact those platforms already run on non-ARM platofrms. Apple could run roughshod over HTC but it

  • by Sandbags (964742) on Thursday April 22, 2010 @01:58PM (#31942594) Journal

    No. ARM has a core architecture, but they OPEN LICENSED that architecture to numerous firms, just as Intel did with AMD. At this point, Intel could refuse to share new tech with AMD, but that does not stop AMD from competing, as they have license to modify the x86 code set and produce chips. That is NOT a revocable license.

    Apple's ownership of ARM would NOT prevent independent ARM development or manufacture. If apple played hardball and refused to share new ARM development other than what was already licensed, all that would happen is those who already licensed ARM up to and including core rights to integrate ARM's command set, core architecture, and subsets with other technologies (Tegra, Snapdragon, etc) would continue to partner together with each other and develop further ARM-based processors, and Apple would be left in the cold...

    Apple is not stupid. FRAND laws apply here, existing licenses and contracts can not be altered by this merger, Apple is merely interested in the profit from the arrangements ARM already has (and lowering their internal costs with PMI Semi and the A4 and future architectures).

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