Samsung Electronics is apparently considering acquiring a small stake in Arm Holdings, at least it is according to an anonymous "top industry official" quoted by Korea Times. Samsung apparently doesn't intend to hold a controlling stake in the company, rather something between three percent and five percent, but will be part of a bigger consortium to try and snap up Arm.
There are a few benefits to Samsung investing in Arm, but the main one would be to reduce its licensing fees for producing Arm-based chips. Samsung's Exynos chips are Arm-based and can be found in a number of its products, including its range of smartphones, so reducing royalties would certainly make sense there.
Arm is currently owned by the Japanese tech giant Softbank. The firm bought Arm for $32bn back in 2016 as part of its Vision Fund initiative. SoftBank is considering either selling Arm or going through an initial public offering because its $100bn Vision Fund recently posted losses for two consecutive quarters, and thus is looking to raise some cold hard cash.
A recent Bloomberg report suggested that Nvidia was getting ready to buy Arm imminently, but that's looking less likely now. As we reported at the time, such a purchase raises plenty of questions, not least of which is should a company that already produces Arm-based chips be allowed to buy it? There are also questions about whether Nvidia can stump up the cash that SoftBank is asking—apparently a cool $41bn. That's a lot of 2080 Tis (opens in new tab).
Arm designs are used by numerous companies, including Samsung, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Apple, to name a few, and chips based on Arm designs are found in everything from smartphones to tablets to TVs.
What does this mean to us PC gamers? Probably very little, and definitely nothing in the short term, but with Apple's recent announcement to drop x86 in favour of Arm, there is the potential for Arm to open up new markets. If Nvidia was to buy up the design biz, that would shift it away from the GPU-led business we've come to know, but even then it would likely be business as usual for the GeForce side of things.
Samsung's share purchase would mean even less, but then again it is allegedly a part of a larger consortium interested in the chip business. Perhaps we'll see a few more familiar names and faces with an interest in a slice of the Arm pie.