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Making sense of Nvidia/Arm, TikTok/Oracle, plus more tech news you need to know

Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Monday, 14 September 2020.

1. NVIDIA buys Arm

NVIDIA announced on Sunday evening that it would acquire Arm and its vast computing ecosystem for $40 billion in stock and cash, in a deal that will take 18-months to close.

It’s being called the most important semiconductor acquisition ever, and the details from NVIDIA’s press release:

The following are the deal highlights per the press release:

  • Nvidia will pay Arm’s owner SoftBank $21.5B in stock, $12B in cash. SoftBank will retain 10% in the new entity.
  • Arm will continue to be registered and headquartered in Cambridge, in the UK, where “a new global center of excellence in AI research at Arm’s Cambridge campus,” will be established.
  • Nvidia will continue Arm’s open-licensing model while maintaining its global customer neutrality.

What it could mean:

  • NVIDIA, the leading maker of GPU, and heavily betting on AI and self-driving cars, now gets access to CPU design and mobile hardware, with the likes of Qualcomm and Samsung watching closely.
  • Cloud computing is increasingly looking at ARM CPUs for their energy efficiency and lower cost.
  • And on the smartphone side, NVIDIA gets a slice of nearly every phone sale, and a way into Apple’s Mac ecosystem after years of Apple forgoing its GPUs.

Will it be approved?

  • Talks are that regulator scrutiny will be tough. There’s a real anti-trust angle here, with Arm’s independence key in what’s made it important.
  • Arm’s customers alone will rebel (Reuters), despite the emphasis on neutral dealings.
  • In a useful post on Forbes, analyst Patrick Moorhead noted I “fully expect NVIDIA’s competitors to object hard to regional regulators.”
  • Hermann Hauser, the co-founder of Arm, said the takeover is an ‘absolute disaster’ for the UK and Europe, and asked the UK government to intervene. (One of Hauser’s last ever tweets from 2016 said the same sort of thing: “ARM is the proudest achievement of my life. The proposed sale to SoftBank is a sad day for me and for technology in Britain.”)

The end result of how this affects you and me, the consumers, won’t play out for some time. But a single hardware architecture being incorporated more widely from IoT to smartphones to supercomputers makes software easier, and a real alternative to x86.


2. Oracle hosts TikTok?

Wall Street Journal and Reuters sources indicate overnight that TikTok will be “sold” to “partner” Oracle, as Microsoft announced its offer had been rejected by ByteDance.

But Oracle isn’t really buying the company, more hosting its US operations.

What does it all mean?

  • Bear with me. The deal to appease both the White House and China’s government is not simple and the situation appears fluid still.
  • The latest, via Reuters: “ByteDance abandoned the sale of TikTok in the United States on Sunday to pursue a partnership with Oracle Corp…”
  • “Under the proposal, Oracle will be ByteDance’s technology partner and assume management of TikTok’s U.S. user data, the sources said. Oracle is also negotiating taking a stake in TikTok’s U.S. operations, they added.”
  • This is quite different to a sale, and sounds more like a hosting arrangement. Much to be clarified here; it’s also not clear if TikTok US will be a different operation to TikTok global/EU/Asia.
  • Microsoft’s 80-word announcement on its official blog didn’t touch on details, but did reference the problems with “security, privacy, online safety and combatting disinformation”.
  • The statement finished with the words: “We look forward to seeing how the service evolves in these important areas.”
  • Or, in other words: good luck and best wishes!
  • Oracle is yet to comment and confirm the deal.

The prevailing opinion right now? Good job Microsoft!

  • Tim Culpan, Bloomberg Opinion columnist on tech, said in his piece: “Heartiest of congratulations go to Microsoft Corp.”
  • “In missing out, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella dodges a bullet … What Nadella’s team started out offering around $25 billion for ended up being a whole lot less than they thought, and will go down in history as one of the most calamitous examples of government interference in corporate history.”
  • Indeed, what Oracle gets here is not clear.
  • Many believe TikTok’s technology and algorithm that keeps people scrolling through videos that keep them hooked in are much more valuable than the userbase.

3. Samsung announces likely Galaxy S20 FE launch event: All the info here! (Android Authority).


4. US Customs proudly seizes OnePlus Buds, thinks they’re counterfeit Apple AirPods (Android Authority).


5. Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review: The only folding phone to buy (Android Authority).


6. The LG Wing is announced on a live stream in just a few hours: 10AM ET (YouTube)


7. Sony announces PS5 event for Wednesday, September 16th 10am ET/1pm PT (The Verge).


8. IKEA partners with ASUS ROG on ‘affordable’ gaming furniture: no word on what exactly, but hard to go past chairs and desks (Engadget).


9. Review: Knife Aid — mail-in knife-sharpening service is a great convenience, but quality of its work iffy (Wired).


10. Zipline and Walmart to launch drone deliveries of health and wellness products (The Verge).


11. Japan will send an 8K camera to Mars: the Red Planet in great detail, coming up (Engadget).


12. Elon Musk says Starship SN8 prototype will have a nose cone and attempt a 60,000-foot return flight (TechCrunch).


13. SpaceX’s dark satellites are still too bright for astronomers (scientificamerican.com)


14. Great, great question: “ELI5: Why does the moon look big to our eyes but when we take a picture it’s really small?” (r/explainlikeimfive).


The DGiT Daily delivers a daily email that keeps you ahead of the curve for all tech news, opinions, and links to what’s going down in the planet’s most important field. You get all the context and insight you need, and all with a touch of fun. Plus! Rotating daily fun for each day of the week, like Wednesday Weirdness. Join in!

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