May 25, 2021 - Technology

Arm CEO on the upside of global chip shortage

Picture of Arm CEO Simon Segars

Arm CEO Simon Segars, speaking at Web Summit 2019. Photo: Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images

Simon Segars has been a busy guy during the pandemic, even if the Arm CEO has spent the bulk of the last 15 months at home: Overseeing a redesign of his company's products, helping his customers deal with a global chip shortage and engineering a $40 billion deal to sell his company.

Why it matters: U.K.-based Arm, uniquely in the chip industry, neither designs nor manufactures entire processors. It focuses on chip cores, and its energy-efficient designs sit at the heart of billions of products, from phones and computers to cars and home electronics.

If nothing else, Segars says the global chip shortage means people are finally talking about semiconductors.

  • "I hope this interest does spur people to want to come into this industry," Segars said in an interview with Axios Monday.

The big picture: There's a reason that SoftBank paid $32 billion to buy it five years ago — and it's the same reason that Nvidia is coughing up even more to acquire it now.

  • Arm licenses its chip-core architecture to the firms that design chips — companies such as Apple, Samsung and Qualcomm.
  • Its partners made some 25 billion chips based on its architecture last year. And, with the chip industry booming, Arm has seen its business grow too, with revenue last year up 11%.
  • In March, the company announced its latest chip architecture, known as V9, which adds improved security and machine learning capabilities, along with better overall performance.

What's new: Arm is announcing how that design will impact the mobile industry, which has adopted Arm designs almost universally.

  • While Intel defined the PC era with its ever more powerful chips, Arm's designs aim for the optimum balance of performance and power efficiency.
  • That's important because battery technology improves only a little each year, while people constantly want to do more with their devices without having to stop midday to recharge their phone.
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