Arm pioneer Hermann Hauser has once again criticized Nvidia's plan to acquire the semiconductor design company, with The Telegraph reporting Sunday that he believes Nvidia is "clearly showing it will compete unfairly" if the deal is approved.
Hauser's concerns reportedly centered on the Grace processor Nvidia announced at GTC 2021. The company's first Arm-based CPU will connect to high-end GPUs via NVLink, which purportedly offers data transfer speeds up to 900 GBps. That's significantly faster than other technologies—it's also exclusively available to Nvidia.
This is why Hauser told The Telegraph that he believes using a proprietary interface like NVLink could end up "locking customers into [Nvidia] products," which "clearly shows that they will compete unfairly with other Arm-based server companies such as Amazon and Fujitsu," rather than retaining Arm's neutrality.
This isn't the first time Hauser's criticized Nvidia's plan to acquire Arm, and he hasn't been alone in those criticisms. Arm licensees such as Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Google have complained to regulators about the acquisition. It would be fair to assume that other companies have quietly joined that chorus in the last few months.
The UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced in April that he wanted the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate the proposal, too, citing national security concerns. CMA must "prepare a report on the competition and national security aspects of the proposed transaction" by July 31.
Nvidia told The Telegraph that Hauser "does not understand what Grace will do or its benefits to Arm" and that "we have been working on Grace using off-the-shelf Arm technology, available to all Arm licensees, long before we agreed to acquire Arm."
But the criticism wasn't about that aspect of the CPU; it was about NVLink. Unless that connection technology is also going to be made available to Arm licensees, the argument goes, Nvidia will be giving itself an unfair advantage. Regardless of that argument's validity, it's a prime example of the types of questions Nvidia's going to raise every time it announces a new product based on Arm's intellectual property.
Nvidia is the biggest threat to that new future. What good is breaking from x86 when you replace it with the likes of Nvidia? Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
I think the UK would be well advised to nix the nVidia deal--over the last 25 years the company has shown a marked proclivity for cheating in various commercial and competitive memes and seems to have no qualms in using unfair and dishonest trade practices of all kinds. Microsoft found nVidia so disagreeable to work with that it dropped nVidia after the original xBox contract--which Microsoft had awarded nVidia. After the first xBox, Microsoft awarded the xBox contracts to ATi, now AMD, and left nVidia in its rear-view permanently. After 3dfx pioneered the first actually playable 3D GPU solutions in the late 90s, I watched nVidia level cheat after cheat against 3dfx in order to try and compete--as always, the cheating involved benchmarks almost exclusivity. Doesn't seem to have changed much, imo. The stories I could tell...!
Who do you propose takes ownership of ARM then? Rumor already has it that Softbank was pressuring ARM to ratchet up their licensing fees:
Who is going to be a "proper" owner in your eyes? It seems that Softbank no longer wants to deal with the slow and steady licensing free they get from ARM so they appear to want to unload it...