Tech

Arm wants to make its own chips as soon as 2025

Qualcomm Snapdragon X Plus logo with chipImage: Mark Hachman / IDG

AI isn’t just a buzzword trying to drive PC sales to consumers. It’s also becoming a huge and very lucrative business — just ask Nvidia, which has more than doubled its stock price in the last year off of selling GPUs to data centers powering the backend of generative artificial intelligence apps. And chip competitor Arm, and its business daddy SoftBank, wants a piece of that pie.

Nikkei Asia reports that Arm is currently setting up an AI division and seeking partners for mass chip production, with a prototype AI chip planned for early 2025 and full-scale manufacturing penciled in for the fall of that year. It’s all part of SoftBank’s 10-trillion-yen ($64 billion USD) investment in the AI space, combined with plans to build data centers around the world and seek out new mergers and acquisitions. Notably, Nvidia failed to buy Arm from SoftBank in 2022 after the US Federal Trade Commission threatened to block the deal.

Arm currently licenses chip designs to companies like Nvidia, Apple, and Samsung; this change would mean Arm is making its own chips (via foundries). It would be a massive change to the model that brings them more closely in competition to their licensing customers.

Arm-based chips are usually seen in smartphones and other mobile devices, but more recently they’ve been on the rise in Mac laptops and a big push for Windows machines. Arm’s architecture is also gaining steam in servers, where they’re generally less powerful but far more efficient than the x86 and x64 designs data centers usually rely on, still evolving from chip designs as far back as the 1980s.

Arm CPU designs are gaining performance ground quickly, with Qualcomm claiming its upcoming Snapdragon X Elite chips could even snatch some performance crowns from Intel. That’s yet to be proven, of course — we’ll have to wait and see how the next generation of Arm designs stack up against more conventional chips for consumers and industry. (Arm’s CEO also recently teased that he expects more companies to make Arm-based PC chips in the next few years — possibly Arm itself, or maybe Nvidia?)

Since AI applications require both number-crunching power and huge amounts of electricity, a compelling offering from Arm could set off an even bigger AI arms race, if you’ll pardon the pun — not least because it will be competing against its own customers. The company will have a lot of ground to make up versus Nvidia and others in 2025, but the potential for profit is simply too great to ignore for SoftBank.

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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