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Arm Will Reportedly Continue Licensing Chip IP to China, Despite US Trade War

According to a DigiTimes report today, Arm has decided to continue licensing chip IP to China-based customers. The vendor is said to have carefully analyzed the potential legal issues it could face from the U.S.-China trade war

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The primary legal defense on which Arm is betting is that is that its chip design patents -- whether we’re talking about the Armv8 instruction set architecture (ISA) or even the upcoming (and yet to be announced) Armv9 ISA -- are built on UK technology. 

Allen Wu, Arm’s executive chairman and CEO of Arm Technology in China, reportedly said during the Arm Tech Symposia Beijing 2019 that the company has over 200 “cooperation partners” in China. He added that the Chinese shipments of Arm-based chips have already surpassed 16 billion units. Furthermore, 95% of chips currently being developed in China use the Arm ISA.

Arm's IP Products Group (IPG) president Rene Haas previously stated that the company will continue to provide IP licenses to Huawei and HiSilicon Technologies, two of its largest long-time Chinese customers. 

As Huawei had already purchased the Armv8 license by the time the trade war started, the company is now free to build new chip designs on top of it. The same is true for other chip designs Huawei licensed from Arm (Cortex-A53, etc.) 

However, it's been less clear whether or not Huawei will continue to receive licenses for brand-new Arm chip designs. Based on today's news, it seems Arm will indeed continue to grant licenses for these new chip designs to Huawei and other Chinese companies.

Arm’s decision to support Chinese customers may also have something to do with the company not wanting the open source RISC-V ISA to get any sort of footholding in China while the trade conflict continues. 

Some large companies such as Nvidia, Western Digital and even Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba have all invested significant resources into their own home-grown RISC-V chips. Others may want to follow suit.

  • bit_user
    The Trump administration's efforts to weaponize US tech exports, in the trade war, could really hurt tech job opportunities, in the long term.

    Banning Huawei from certain US infrastructure contracts makes sense, but banning cooperation with or sales to it just doesn't.
    Reply
  • setx
    Arm has decided to continue licensing chip IP to China-based customers. The vendor is said to have carefully analyzed the potential legal issues it could face from the U.S.-China trade war.
    Too late. Damage for your reputation is already done. I guess that all self-respecting major corporations instantly increased the priority of developing alternatives to ARM IP. You won't hear anything like that just yet as such tasks require several years and no one wants to be stuck without products tomorrow, but with time interest in RISC-V (and maybe POWER) will skyrocket.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    setx said:
    Too late. Damage for your reputation is already done. I guess that all self-respecting major corporations instantly increased the priority of developing alternatives to ARM IP.
    Yeah, from a Chinese perspective, ARM has two big strikes against it:
    Japanese ownership (Softbank)
    their apparent vulnerability to US trade policy.And if there was any doubt that Japan would follow Trump's example, that little trade spat we recently saw between Japan and South Korea put to bed any such notions. As for #2, even if they're now trying to dispel concerns about vulnerability to US trade policy, it will need to be tested in court, to truly affirm those claims.

    Clearly, the Europeans are also quite wary. In the past couple years, it seems a number of initiatives in (mainly) HPC have got underway or received additional funding and attention, there. Of course, that didn't start with Trump. The US has long guarded HPC-oriented technology products, and even restricted Chinese access, under Obama. It's just that Trump has now called into question whether the US might ever do such a thing to the Europeans.

    setx said:
    with time interest in RISC-V (and maybe POWER) will skyrocket.
    It'll be interesting to see what boost POWER gets from all this. I get the sense that the ship has sailed on POWER, but I wouldn't mind being wrong about that.
    Reply
  • nofanneeded
    I find TRUMP stupid policies a blessing to the whole world. Other countries have been lazy depending on USA for the Technology , even EU and not only east china never bothered competing in making CPU and operation systems.

    This is a wake up call to every one to stop being lazy and start making their own CPU and hardware and software and in no time , USA will be begging to use outside technology.

    it just needs 20 years ...
    Reply
  • IJustWantToReadOldThreads
    setx said:
    Too late. Damage for your reputation is already done. I guess that all self-respecting major corporations instantly increased the priority of developing alternatives to ARM IP. You won't hear anything like that just yet as such tasks require several years and no one wants to be stuck without products tomorrow, but with time interest in RISC-V (and maybe POWER) will skyrocket.
    Oh please, billions of devices run ARM, do you really think this little spat will ruin their reputation? POWER is dead outside of very specific, high compute power markets. The last home computer to run a POWER based processor was the PowerMac G5, from 14 years ago. Dead, deader, deadest. RISC-V is still long away from actually working, and who knows if it'll be as good as they claim. ARM is still here, and still ever powerful, muppets like you don't look at the big picture sadly!
    Reply
  • kinggremlin
    nofanneeded said:
    This is a wake up call to every one to stop being lazy and start making their own CPU and hardware and software and in no time , USA will be begging to use outside technology.

    it just needs 20 years ...

    TSMC Starts $19.5 Billion 3nm Fab Construction
    Better get that kickstarter up quickly, it's going to take a while to get to $20 billion.
    Reply
  • mitch074
    IJustWantToReadOldThreads said:
    Oh please, billions of devices run ARM, do you really think this little spat will ruin their reputation? POWER is dead outside of very specific, high compute power markets. The last home computer to run a POWER based processor was the PowerMac G5, from 14 years ago. Dead, deader, deadest. RISC-V is still long away from actually working, and who knows if it'll be as good as they claim. ARM is still here, and still ever powerful, muppets like you don't look at the big picture sadly!
    POWER architecture : you forget the central unit of the Playstation 3, which was used in much more recent clusters.
    RISC-V : you do know that it's an instruction set, not a CPU design, right? With the proper instruction decoder , any CPU design could be RISC-V compatible - take any current x86 CU and even some ARM design, you could change the decoder units to support RISC-V instead and get yourself a CPU without paying either Intel or ARM a cent...
    Reply
  • bit_user
    nofanneeded said:
    Other countries have been lazy depending on USA for the Technology , even EU and not only east china never bothered competing in making CPU and operation systems.
    Oh?

    I won't try to go into the history of CPUs from the likes of Philips, Siemens, S/T Microelectronics, etc. but you're forgetting about a little UK company called ARM. Granted, aside from ARM, there haven't been recent, strong contenders for the mainstream CPU market not based in the US, but the other guys I mentioned have had some decent successes in embedded and niche markets.

    It's also worth noting that even the big, US-based chip companies have design centers all over the world. And speaking of ARM, one of its main CPU design centers is in France.

    And, maybe you've heard of a little OS called Linux? Well, that was created by a guy from Finland, named Linus Torvalds.

    nofanneeded said:
    This is a wake up call to every one to stop being lazy and start making their own CPU and hardware and software and in no time ,
    That message was certainly received.

    I wouldn't call it laziness, in the strict sense, but I guess you could characterize a lack of long-term investment and commitment in such a way, but there were certainly other factors such as the dominance of x86 and Intel's patent barriers that held back competition aside from legal agreements negotiated with AMD and Via.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    IJustWantToReadOldThreads said:
    Oh please, billions of devices run ARM, do you really think this little spat will ruin their reputation?
    Yes. China now sees that it cannot depend on being able to use ARM cores or the ISA, so they will move away from it.

    IJustWantToReadOldThreads said:
    POWER is dead outside of very specific, high compute power markets. The last home computer to run a POWER based processor was the PowerMac G5, from 14 years ago. Dead, deader, deadest.
    Not true. You can even buy a modern POWER computer, today.

    https://www.raptorcs.com/content/base/products.html
    And Apple computers were not POWER-based, but based on the derivative PowerPC ISA. Incidentally, I believe PowerPC CPUs are still used in some communication equipment and embedded markets.

    IJustWantToReadOldThreads said:
    RISC-V is still long away from actually working, and who knows if it'll be as good as they claim.
    This is an overly-broad statement. It has been deployed in embedded scenarios, already. The big questions are mainly whether it can threaten ARM in mobile and server use cases.

    IJustWantToReadOldThreads said:
    muppets like you don't look at the big picture sadly!
    This crosses a line. You could encourage someone to look at the big picture or suggest they might be missing it, but there's no need to turn it into a personal attack. That sort of thing will get you moderated.
    Reply
  • bit_user
    kinggremlin said:
    TSMC Starts $19.5 Billion 3nm Fab Construction
    Better get that kickstarter up quickly, it's going to take a while to get to $20 billion.
    I think @nofanneeded was talking about designing CPUs - not fabbing them.

    It doesn't matter so much where they're actually fabbed, but I guess if you're really covering your bases, you'd also worry about that. Anyway, I'm pretty sure Global Foundries has a fab in Germany, or something.
    Reply