While ARM CPUs first appeared in the Acorn Archimedes, a desktop computer, today's systems include mostly embedded systems, including ARM CPUs used in virtually all (smart) phones. Systems, like iPhone and Android smartphones, frequently include many chips, from many different providers, that include one or more licensed Arm cores, in addition to those in the main Arm-based processor. Arm's core designs are also used in chips that support all the most common network-related technologies.
Arm's main CPU competitors in servers include IBM, Intel and AMD.
Intel competed with ARM-based chips in mobile, but Arm no longer has any competition in that space (however, vendors of actual ARM-based chips compete within that space). Arm's main GPU competitors include mobile GPUs from American and Japanese technology companies Imagination Technologies (PowerVR), Qualcomm (Adreno), and increasingly Nvidia, AMD, Samsung and Intel. While competing in GPUs, Qualcomm, Samsung and Nvidia all have combined their GPUs with Arm-licensed CPUs.
Arm had a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It also had a secondary listing on NASDAQ. However Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group made an agreed offer for Arm on 18 July 2016, subject to approval by Arm's shareholders, valuing the company at £24.3 billion. The transaction was completed on 5 September 2016.
On 13 September 2020, it was announced that Nvidia would buy Arm from SoftBank for $40 billion, subject to regulatory approval, with the latter acquiring a 10% share in Nvidia.
In February 2022, the two companies reported that the deal had collapsed due to regulatory hurdles; SoftBank subsequently announced that it planned to float Arm on the stock market by 2023.
The acronym ARM was first used in 1983 and originally stood for "Acorn RISC Machine". Acorn Computers' first RISC processor was used in the original Acorn Archimedes and was one of the first RISC processors used in small computers. However, when the company was incorporated in 1990, what 'ARM' stood for changed to "Advanced RISC Machines", in light of the company's name "Advanced RISC Machines Ltd" – and according to an interview with Steve Furber the name change was also at the behest of Apple, which did not wish to have the name of a former competitor – namely Acorn – in the name of the company. At the time of the IPO in 1998, the company name was changed to "ARM Holdings", often just called ARM like the processors.
On 1 August 2017, the styling and logo were changed. The logo is now all lowercase ('arm') and other uses of the name are in sentence case ('Arm') except where the whole sentence is upper case, so, for instance, it became 'Arm Holdings', and since only Arm.
The company was founded in November 1990 as Advanced RISC Machines Ltd and structured as a joint venture between Acorn Computers, Apple, and VLSI Technology. Acorn provided 12 employees, VLSI provided tools, Apple provided $3 million investment.Larry Tesler, Apple VP was a key person and the first CEO at the joint venture. The new company intended to further the development of the Acorn RISC Machine processor, which was originally used in the Acorn Archimedes and had been selected by Apple for its Newton project. Its first profitable year was 1993. The company's Silicon Valley and Tokyo offices were opened in 1994. ARM invested in Palmchip Corporation in 1997 to provide system on chip platforms and to enter into the disk drive market. In 1998, the company changed its name from Advanced RISC Machines Ltd to ARM Ltd. The company was first listed on the London Stock Exchange and NASDAQ in 1998 and by February 1999, Apple's shareholding had fallen to 14.8%.
Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group made an agreed offer for ARM on 18 July 2016, subject to approval by ARM's shareholders, valuing the company at £23.4 billion (US$32 billion). The transaction was completed on 5 September 2016.
American technology company Nvidia announced plans on 13 September 2020 to acquire ARM from SoftBank, pending regulatory approval, for a value of US$40 billion in stock and cash, which would have been the largest semiconductor acquisition to that date. SoftBank Group will acquire slightly less than a 10% stake in Nvidia, and ARM will maintain its headquarters in Cambridge. There is opposition to the deal, for several reasons, including national security concerns from the UK and competition concerns from fellow tech companies such as Google, Microsoft and Qualcomm, whose chips in use or on sale heavily rely on Arm's intellectual property. It is also being battled by Arm China, its subsidiary, of which majority stake is held by the Chinese funds. The acquisition was initially scheduled to conclude before the end of 2022 per the contract. However, the European Commission, the UK Competition and Markets Authority and the US Federal Trade Commission has raised completion concerns focusing on Arm's role within Nvidia, while the UK government also raised concerns about national security. The merger attempt was eventually cancelled due to the aforementioned regulatory pressure.
Row over ownership of Arm China
Softbank Group sold more than half of Arm China in 2018 to a local consortium consisting of various parties including China Investment Corp. and the Silk Road Fund, effectively relinquishing the majority ownership of the Chinese subsidiary to a group of investors who have ties to Beijing. Since 2020, discord between Arm and the effective owners of Arm China became visible after the British parent company unsuccessfully tried to oust the chief executive of the subsidiary, who still kept his position regardless. A prevailing view emerged that the matter would negatively affect the pending approval by the Chinese regulators over the Softbank-Nvidia deal, as well as a public offering of Arm.
As of September 2021, despite Arm's denial, some reports observed that the chief executive of Arm China, whom the British parent had tried to dismiss, had publicly declared the "independence" of Arm China. In February 2022, Allen Wu, the CEO of Arm China, floated an idea of a public offering of the Chinese subsidiary itself in no sooner than 2025 as a possibility.
On 29 April 2022, it was reported that the CEO and legal representative of Arm China had finally been replaced according to legally recognized filings.
Fujitsu (the supercomputer maker of June 2011 world's fastest K computer according to TOP500) announced at the International Supercomputing Conference in June 2016 that its future exascale supercomputer will feature processors of its own design that implement the ARMv8 architecture, rather than the SPARC processors used in earlier supercomputers. These processors will also implement extensions to the ARMv8 architecture equivalent to HPC-ACE2 that Fujitsu is developing with ARM Holdings.
The Cray XC50-series supercomputer for the University of Bristol is called Isambard, named after Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The supercomputer is expected to feature around 160 nodes, each with two 32-core ThunderX2 processors running at 2.1 GHz. Peak theoretical performance of the 10,240 cores and 40,960 threads is 172 teraFLOPS.
The Vanguard project by Sandia National Laboratories is to deliver an exascale ARM machine. The first generation was called Hammer, it was based on X-Gene by Applied Micro. The second generation was called Sullivan was based Cavium's ThunderXs processors. The third generation of the Sandia National Laboratories' Vanguard project called Mayer was based on pre-production ThunderX2. The fourth generation also based on ThunderX2 is called Astra and was slated to become operational by November 2018.
Arm offers several microprocessor core designs that have been "publicly licensed" for its newer "application processors" (non-microcontroller) used in such applications as smartphones and tablets. Three of those companies are known to have a licence for one of Arm's 64-bitCortex-A72 (some including ARM's other 64-bit core the Cortex-A53).
Companies often license these designs from Arm to manufacture and integrate into their own System on chip (SoC) with other components such as GPUs (sometimes Arm's Mali) or modem/radio basebands (for mobile phones). Arm offers multiple licensing programs for their cores. Arm also offers Artisan POP IP, where Arm partners with foundries to provide physical implementation, which allows faster time to market.
In February 2016, Arm announced the Built on Arm Cortex Technology licence often shortened to Built on Cortex (BoC) licence. This licence allows companies to partner with Arm and make modifications to Arm Cortex designs. These design modifications will not be shared with other companies. These semi-custom core designs also have brand freedom, for example Kryo 280.
In addition to licences for their core designs and BoC licence, Arm offers an "architectural licence" for their instruction set architectures, allowing the licensees to design their own cores that implement one of those instruction sets. An Arm architectural licence is more costly than a regular Arm core licence.
Systems, including iPhone smartphones, frequently include many chips, from many different providers, that include one or more licensed Arm cores, in addition to those in the main Arm-based processor. Arm's core designs are also used in chips that support many common network-related technologies in smartphones: Bluetooth, WiFi and broadband, in addition to corresponding equipment such as Bluetooth headsets,802.11acrouters, and network providers' cellular LTE.
In October 2017, Arduino announced its partnership with ARM. The announcement said, in part, "ARM recognized independence as a core value of Arduino ... without any lock-in with the ARM architecture." Arduino intends to continue to work with all technology vendors and architectures.
In August 2020, Arm signed a three-year agreement with DARPA, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, enabling DARPA researchers to use all of Arm's commercially available technology.
Warren East was appointed chief executive officer (CEO) of Arm Holdings in October 2001. In the 2011 financial year, East received a total compensation of £1,187,500 from ARM, comprising a salary of £475,000 and a bonus of £712,500. East said in March 2013 that he would retire from Arm in May, with president Simon Segars taking over as CEO. In March 2014, former Rexam chairman Stuart Chambers succeeded John Buchanan as chairman. Chambers, a non-executive director of Tesco and former chief executive of Nippon Sheet Glass Group, had previously worked at Mars and Royal Dutch Shell.
On 8 February 2022, Rene Haas succeeded Segars as CEO with immediate effect, with Segars leaving Arm.
^"ARM". Symbian. Archived from the original on 26 January 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2008. ARM is the market-leading architecture in mobile devices worldwide, with 80% of all handsets containing at least one ARM core.
^ ab"Cray Adds ARM Option to XC50 Supercomputer | TOP500 Supercomputer Sites". www.top500.org. Retrieved 14 November 2017. Cray claims its ARM compiler demonstrated better performance in two-thirds of 135 benchmarks, and much better performance – 20 percent or more – in one-third of them, compared to open source ARM compilers from LLVM and GNU. The Cray ThunderX2 blades can be mixed with other XC50 blades outfitted with Intel Xeon-SP or Xeon Phi processors and NVIDIA Tesla GPUs. Both air-cooled and liquid-cooled options are available. Cray already has one customer lined up for the ThunderX2-powered XC50: the Great Western 4 (GW4) Alliance, a research consortium of four UK universities (Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter). In January 2017, the alliance announced it had contracted Cray to build "Isambard," a 10,000-core ARM-based supercomputer, which will provide a Tier 2 HPC service. The UK’s Met Office was also involved on the deal, since it was interested in seeing how its weather and climate codes would run on such a machine. The system will be paid for out of a £3 million award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It’s scheduled to be fully deployed by the end of this year.