Hermann Hauser is an Austrian citizen who attended the prestigious English university of Cambridge in his youth. If we voluntarily take a shortcut on history, it is to arrive at the fact that he founded in the United Kingdom a company that gave birth to the ARM architecture. Today, he no longer has any shares or decision-making power in the company, although he acknowledges that when he talks about ARM “the heart also speaks a little! But his background and his position at the head of a technology investment fund for 25 years obviously give him a very precise view of this Nvidia / ARM episode.
ARM: a virtuous monopoly
First of all, Hermann explains how ARM got to where it is today. “ARM’s situation has nothing to do with a classic monopoly… By making ARM a simple supplier of technologies that everyone could buy, I ensured its success”. ARM’s business model allows anyone to develop their own chips by subscribing to various levels of licenses offered by the company. The most convincing example is of course Apple which, without owning the ARM instruction set, can, with its high-end license, develop particularly powerful chips of its own.
For Hermann, the takeover by Nvidia would have created unfair competition
“I can only see two reasons for Nvidia’s move: by owning ARM, the company would not only have been the only user not paying for an ARM license – while charging others. And controlling the development of the architecture would have allowed it to make its developments more favorable to its own GPUs, for example, at the expense of competitors like AMD or Intel.” He goes even further, clearly stating that Nvidia had no “technical” reason to buy ARM, except for wanting to create a level playing field with its competitors. Because Nvidia did not need to own ARM to make quality chips on this architecture. The Tegra X1 SoC is a good example. So there is no doubt that Nvidia’s move was intended to take advantage of this acquisition to weigh on its competitors. Finally, Hermann thinks that in the future, if ARM is to return to the stock market, it is important to find mechanisms to protect its special situation. He advocates in particular the participation of the British government in the capital of ARM with a blocking minority allowing it to block a future acquisition by a foreign country or company. You can find the full interview with Hermann Hauser on 01net.