The past weeks have been great for ARM, the designers of the most-used processors in the mobile and embedded world. From Apple’s switch to its own ARM-based Silicon to powering the world’s fastest supercomputer, ARM seems poised to become an even bigger threat to Intel than AMD was. Perhaps emboldened by that newfound prestige, the company has decided to stay focused on what it does best and spin off from that other popular IT market, the Internet of Things.
To be clear, ARM, now spelled as Arm, itself doesn’t make these processors. It licenses its designs to the likes of Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung, Apple, Huawei’s HiSilicon, Rockchip, and dozens more to actually manufacture the chips that run on the world’s smartphones, cars, embedded computers, and even servers and supercomputers. IoT devices seem like a natural extension of that and it has, in fact, been a focus of Arm’s activities for the past months.
Now it has realized it wasn’t a smart idea after all. It has decided to spin off its two IoT businesses, IoT Platform and Treasure Data, to become new entities directly under the SoftBank Group. Considering SoftBank actually owns Arm since 2016, it practically means that these IoT businesses will be sibling companies to Arm. The chip designer says it will continue working with its former businesses when the transfer is approved and finalized, hopefully by September.
This move will free Arm to keep its eyes on the prize, its core semiconductor IP. Given recent events, that may indeed be a more profitable and fruitful strategy if and when more computers move over to the ARM side. That said, Arm will still have a hand in the compute aspects of the IoT industry and chip makers will still be able to create processors for IoT devices based on those designs.
ARM-based chips will still be one of the prime choices for smart home devices, the other option being RISC-V. That said, the company hasn’t found much money or love for the data-related aspects of IoT and thinks that SoftBank, which owns data center IDC Frontier and carriers like Sprint, will do a better job at providing and monetizing that service.