Mac Apple SiliconSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • SoftBank is selling its chip firm Arm Ltd.
  • Apple reportedly held preliminary talks with SoftBank about a possible acquisition.
  • Apple is not planning to pursue a bid.

A report claims that Apple held preliminary talks with SoftBank Group Corp. over the prospect of bidding for its chip design branch Arm Ltd.

According to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman:

SoftBank Group Corp. approached Apple Inc. recently to gauge the iPhone maker's interest in bidding for chip design firm Arm Ltd., according to people familiar with the discussions.

The two firms had preliminary discussions, but Apple isn't planning to pursue a bid. Arm's licensing operation would fit poorly with Apple's hardware focused business model. There may also be regulatory concerns about Apple owning a key licensee that supplies so many rivals. Representatives from SoftBank and Apple declined to comment.

As the report notes, this would have been a mammoth acquisition in Apple terms. SoftBank paid $32 billion for Arm in 2016, dwarfing Apple's biggest-ever acquisition, its purchase of Beats several years ago for $3 billion, which at the time was a huge deal.

As Rene Ritchie recently explained, Apple has long relied on Arm's ISA license to make its own ARM chips for its mobile devices for years now. Apple will build on this operation with the introduction of Apple silicon to its Macs later this year.

As Bloomberg notes, there might be some concern about an Apple rival getting their hands on Arm, right now it seems that graphics giant NVIDIA is the front-runner, having reportedly made an undisclosed offer in what would be the largest-ever acquisition in the chip industry. No doubt, the purchase/sale of Arm could be one of the biggest moments in the industry in recent years.