In order to understand this story, you need to be aware of this news item: Softbank is considering the options of selling outright, selling part of, or making a public offering of Arm, the British chip design firm behind the chips that power just about every smartphone, a whole lot of IoT devices (including the Raspberry Pi), a fair share of Chromebooks, and soon, Apple’s computers.
Softbank is considering this move because it needs the money. It has an activist investor that wants to see some changes, because it’s made some embarrassing investments leasing to considerable losses of both money ($16.5 billion for the financial year ending March 2020) and face.
One of those embarrassing losses is the fault of Adam Neumann, cofounder and CEO of WeWork, and the jamoke pictured at the top of this article. You may remember the story from last year, where the company — effectively a Regus pretending to be a Netflix — had to delay its IPO due to concerns about its pretend profitability and flaky, cult-of-personality non-leadership.
These concerns led investors to take a closer look at their numbers and Neumann’s aberrant behavior and business dealings. This in turn led to Neumann stepping down as CEO in September, SoftBank taking control of their investment, and paying Neumann $1.7 billion to leave the board.
Simply put, Neumann’s hijinks cost Softbank a lot of money, and they now have an investor putting serious pressure on them to sell off assets to raise cash. Arm could be one of those assets.
At the same time, there are a number of interesting developments where Arm chips are concerned…
At WWDC 2020, Apple announced that they were moving their computers off Intel x86 chips, whose notoriously bad design is really showing its age these days, and to their own custom Arm-based chips. (Arm has “standard” chips, but if you’re a big player, you can work with them to have them design custom chips for you.) The Arm-based processors in the current line of iPhones run circles around not just the processors in Samsung’s flagship phones, but also most laptops as well.
Any talk about what Arm chips will mean for Apple is all speculation right now, but if you want to hear some really good speculation, as well as a decent Arm vs. Intel discussion, check out episode 777 of This Week in Tech:
In that episode of This Week in Tech, host Leo Laporte and his panel agree that Windows PC OEMs will probably end up switching to Arm processors, and they’re not the only ones saying it.
Arm also had a moment in the sun on the mainframe front: The new holder of the title of “world’s fastest supercomputer”, the Fugaku, is powered by Arm chips.
There’s a pretty good chance that Arm will end up being the de facto chip design to rule them all in the 2020s — and their maker is up for sale. In fact, there’s an unnamed interested buyer. I have a guess, and I’m not the only person to have the same idea:
If only there were a tech company making a move to ARM silicon with a huge pile of cash laying around… https://t.co/lGqnDfG9SI
— Zak Kukoff (@zck) July 13, 2020
(In case you’re wondering: Apple had $245 billion in their cash reserves last year, and Softbank bought Arm for $32 billion a few years ago.)
What do you think?