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NVIDIA in Advanced Talks to Acquire Arm from SoftBank

It was reported last week that NVIDIA is "interested" in acquiring UK chip-design firm Arm from Japan's SoftBank that holds a treasure chest of tech IP. Now Bloomberg reports that things are getting serious between NVIDIA and SoftBank, with the two reportedly engaged in "advanced talks" over the possible acquisition of Arm by NVIDIA. The graphics and scalar compute giant recently surpassed Intel in market capitalization.

With a few quick moves, NVIDIA stands a real chance of displacing Intel as makers of the world's most popular CPU machine architecture, driven mainly by smartphones, tablets, networking infrastructure, wearables, and IoT devices. The Arm architecture is also taking strides into the server space, and Apple recently decided to dump Intel x86 in favor of Arm-powered homebrew SoCs. Arm could cost NVIDIA an arm and a leg. New Street Research LLP estimated Arm's valuation at USD $44 billion if its IPO took off in 2021, and as much as $68 billion by 2025.

Arm China Goes Rogue, Ex-CEO Blocking the Business

Arm Ltd., owned by Softbank, has a division specially tailored for China, called Arm China. That division used to operate in Shenzen and it cooperated with Chinese customers. Today in a surprising turn of events, we have information that UK-based Arm Ltd. accuses Arm China ex-CEO of blocking its business, as the Chinese division goes rogue. The Arm China division used to have Mr. Allen Wu as its CEO, who was fired back in June. However, Mr. Wu has refused to cooperate and refused to step down from his position, remaining in control of the business without the consent of UK-based headquarters.

The situation has escalated to a point where Mr. Wu is "propagating false information and creating a culture of fear and confusion among Arm China employees," says Arm in a statement for Bloomberg. "Allen's focus on his own self-preservation has also put China semiconductor innovation at risk as he has attempted to block the critical communication and support our China partners require from Arm for ongoing and future chip designs." It is also said that Mr. Wu has refused to hold an event meant to connect Chinese chipmakers to Arm Ltd. He has hired personal security so no Arm Ltd. representatives can get to him. It is a waiting game to see how well Arm Ltd. can manage this situation, so we have to wait and see.

Sony Doubles Playstation 5 Orders Amid High Demand

According to the Bloomberg report, Sony has reportedly doubled Playstation 5 orders and plans to ship 10 million units this fiscal year. Originally, Sony wanted to ship 5-6 million units between November of this year and March 31st of 2021. However, Sony is seeing a very high demand for its next-generation console and it had to double the production orders. Being manufactured in Kisarazu, Japan, the company can assemble two Playstation 4 consoles every minute, which is pretty impressive and gives hope that Sony can satisfy the demand for the new console. When the manufacturing costs of the console are broken down into parts, memory is making for more than half of it. The super-fast PCIe 4.0 SSD and GDDR6 memory cost about $250 combined. Reports are suggesting that the entire console costs an amazing $450 to manufacture.

Apple to Announce its own Mac Processor at WWDC (Late June)

Apple is planning to launch its own high-performance processors designed for Macs at the 2020 WWDC, held in the week of 22 June, 2020. This would be the the first step among many toward the replacement of Intel processors and the x86 machine architecture from the Apple Mac ecosystem, in the same fashion as the company replaced PowerPC with x86 last decade. Apple has codenamed the process of graduating to the new machine architecture "Kalamata," and besides detailing the new processor and its architecture, the company could announce a large-scale developer support initiative to help Mac software vendors to transition to the new architecture in time for the first Macs with the new processors to roll out in 2021.

A Bloomberg report on the new processors states that the chips will be based on the "same technology" as the company's A-series SoCs for iOS devices, meaning that Apple will leverage the Arm machine architecture, and has probably developed a high performance CPU core that can match Intel's x64 cores in IPC and efficiency. Macs based on the new processors, will however run MacOS and not iOS, which means much of the clean-break transition woes between PPC and x86 Macs are bound to return, but probably better managed by software vendors. It also remains to be seen how Apple handles graphics. The company could scale up the Metal-optimized iGPU found in its A-series SoCs on its new Mac processor, while also giving them the platform I/O capability to support discrete graphics from companies such as AMD.

Intel Accused by Workers to Prioritize Chip Output over Safety Regulations

With the current world pandemic happening, it is quite difficult for every manufacturer to keep its production lines running, as the factory needs a big amount of staff to look out for the processes happening and that creates big gatherings, which is potentially dangerous for spreading the COVID-19. In the most recent report by Bloomberg Law, Intel has been accused to prioritize chip output over the safety of its employees, meaning that Intel is forcing CPU production, where the fab working conditions are not the best. Workers have reported that Intel has been pushing them to work in big groups, without proper protective equipment like shields or masks. It is reported that few managers have told that the 6 feet distancing rule is fine to break, as long as the contact is under 30 minutes. There have been four of such complaints filed against Intel, and Intel has already responded stating the following:

Magic Leap Announces Layoffs & Abandons Consumer AR in Major Restructuring

Magic Leap the augmented-reality startup has raised over 2 billion dollars from investor such as Alphabet and Alibaba to develop AR products. In a recent blog post by CEO Rony Abovitz titled "Charting a New Course" he announces that the company has come under financial hardship due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and will focus all of its resources on the enterprise market and the launch of Magic Leap 2. This restructuring will involve Magic Leap abandoning its consumer developments in the near-term and significant layoffs, Bloomberg reports layoffs may be 1000 which would result in the companies workforce halving.

Super Micro Moving Manufacturing Outside China to Allay Spyware Fears

Motherboard manufacturer Super Micro is moving manufacturing completely outside China to allay fears from customers on spyware implanted by China. Bloomberg in October 2018 put out a sensational article alleging that Super Micro, which specializes in server motherboards bought in bulk by data-centers and cloud companies, contain spyware by the Chinese government designed to spy on US enterprises. Super Micro was quick to refute the article as baseless, but by then the damage to its reputation was done. Faced with declining sales by as much as 10 percent despite rapid industrial CAGR growth, the company is now forced to relocate manufacturing outside China not just to allay these fears, but perhaps also to reduce its import tariff burden imposed by the US government on a spectrum of electronics goods manufactured in China.

China had a manufacturing strangehold on server motherboard manufacturing, amounting to 90 percent of server motherboards shipped in 2017. In 2018, however, with the the US-China trade-war underway, that figure dropped like a rock to just 50 percent, a dramatic fall for just one year. Server component manufacturers are relocating to other countries, such as Taiwan, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Super Micro is relocating to Taiwan, with a new factory set up in Taoyuan at a cost of $65 million.

Samsung Profits Tank as DRAM, NAND Flash, and SoC Prices Slump

Samsung Electronics Q1-2019 preliminary reads like a horror story to investors, as the company posted its worst drop in operating-profit in over four years. Operating income fell 60 percent in the quarter ending March 2019, to about USD $5.5 billion, beating Bloomberg analysts who had predicted a 56 percent drop. Sluggish sales to IoT major Amazon, smartphone major Apple, and other handset makers, compounded by swelling inventory in the supply chain, has triggered sharp drops in DRAM prices that were offsetting critically low NAND flash prices. Demand for Samsung SoCs (application processors) is also on the decline.

Samsung is betting heavily on the success of its Galaxy S10 family of smartphones to recover from losses faced in the three component markets. Prices of DRAM prices fell 22 percent YoY, and NAND flash continues to slide by roughly that much, at 23 percent. NAND flash prices have been on a continuous decline over the past 3 years. DRAM prices, on the other hand, rallied in that period, and it's only now that it posted its first price-drop since 2016. NAND flash prices are expected to slide further down, as oversupply and failure of newer technologies like QLC taking off, hurt NAND flash manufacturers.

Supermicro Refutes Claims in Bloomberg Article

Super Micro Computer, Inc. (SMCI), a global leader in enterprise computing, storage, networking solutions and green computing technology, strongly refutes reports that servers it sold to customers contained malicious microchips in the motherboards of those systems. In an article today, it is alleged that Supermicro motherboards sold to certain customers contained malicious chips on its motherboards in 2015. Supermicro has never found any malicious chips, nor been informed by any customer that such chips have been found.

Each company mentioned in the article (Supermicro, Apple, Amazon and Elemental) has issued strong statements denying the claims:
Apple stated on CNBC, "We are deeply disappointed that in their dealings with us, Bloomberg's reporters have not been open to the possibility that they or their sources might be wrong or misinformed. Our best guess is that they are confusing their story with a previously reported 2016 incident in which we discovered an infected driver on a single Supermicro server in one of our labs. That one-time event was determined to be accidental and not a targeted attack against Apple."

Samsung Facing Fine of $400 Million Over FinFET Patent Infringement

Bloomberg is reporting that Samsung was hit with a $400 million fine last Friday, (ahem) courtesy of a Texas federal jury. The source of the patent infringement relates to FinFET-specific technology that is being said was "illegally, and willfully taken" from the licensing arm of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the South Korean university. If you're wondering why was such a case between two South Korean institutions settled in Texas, well - KAIST IP US, the university's licensing arm is strangely (or not) based in the Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas, - a venue considered "particularly friendly" to patent owners.

The $400 million is just the initial sum; since Samsung's mishandling of the intellectual property (usage without payment) was found to be "willful", the company could be faced with up to three times those charges. Bloomberg's report says that KAIST claimed in its initial complaint that Samsung was dismissive of the FinFet research at first, believing it would be a fad. Apparently, that all changed when rival Intel Corp. started licensing the invention and developing its own products, according to KAIST IP. Samsung, naturally, disagrees: the company that it helped the university develop the technology in the first place, and that it was "disappointed by the verdict", and "will consider options to obtain an outcome that is reasonable, including an appeal."

Display Stocks Tank as Apple's Secret Display R&D and Manufacturing Facility Surfaces

Stocks of prominent display panel manufacturers such as LG Display, Sharp, and Samsung, tanked 4.4 percent on Monday, as reports emerged of Apple secretly developing its own screens and manufacturing them, for the first time. Apple has a secret Silicon Valley facility hiding in plain sight, located in Santa Clara. This facility is where cutting-edge research and development into micro-LED display panels is underway, along with small-scale manufacturing, just enough for Apple to rapidly prototype products under development, with new displays, before its display suppliers even have access to the technology.

Bloomberg comments that the facility is part of Apple's ambitious plan to bring development of key components of its products in-house. It also enables Apple to keep all new intellectual property obtained during the development to itself, so its suppliers can't bring IP they hold to their pricing negotiations with the company. Its R&D focus currently appears to be micro-LED technology, which will enable smaller and more pixel-dense screens, particularly for the Apple Watch.

President Trump Blocks Broadcom-Qualcomm Deal Through an Executive Order

US President Donald Trump blocked the potentially-$117 billion Broadcom-Qualcomm merger through an executive order. The White House considered damning observations by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which had been studying potential national security implications of this merger. "There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that Broadcom Ltd. [by acquiring Qualcomm] might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States," wrote President Trump in the order.

Broadcom expressed shock and disbelief over the order. The company, in a statement, said that it "strongly disagrees that its proposed acquisition of Qualcomm raises any national security concerns." Qualcomm, meanwhile, battened down the hatches for any press comments. The American chipmaker had been wrestling an increasingly Broadcom-slanted board that was all but ready to sell the company to Broadcom at an undervalued price. According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the Trump administration has shot down ten similar deals since it came to power, in which foreign companies - overwhelmingly Chinese in national origin - had attempted buy out American high-technology firms. Californian Intel is still in the foray to swallow Broadcom, as CFIUS doesn't concern itself with American companies buying out foreign firms.

Bitcoin's Lack of Wallet Privacy Leads Criminals to Look Towards Other Cryptos

"It is used for criminal, illegal activities" is one of the most oft-mentioned reasons for users to reject Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. However, it seems that this argument is losing weight as we speak when it comes to Bitcoin. In the wake of much increased interest and awareness regarding the fledgling, currently leading cryptocurrency, which has seen institutions and states renew their interest and attention towards regulation or stricter control of the virtual currency, users that would use Bitcoin for nefarious purposes have started to migrate to other cryptocurrencies. You see, the reality of a distributed, transparent ledger is great for a system's transparency; however, transparency and easily identifiable - and traceable - wallets and transactions go against criminals' interests. Law enforcement agencies, such as Europol, have already issued warnings and established protocols towards the adoption of software tools to monitor people using bitcoin. As such, criminals are looking towards other less "transparent" cryptos to use as escape routes for their criminal ways.

The most viable alternative for criminals has apparently been Monero, the cryptocurrency that has also been in the world's mouth because it's usually the one being mined in web browsers, absent of users' consent. Monero has been developed with privacy as a main design criteria from the start, encrypting the recipient's address on its blockchain and generating fake addresses, obfuscating the real sender, but going one step further by also obfuscating the amount of the transaction. This means Monero is currently "one of the favorites, if not the favorite" for usage in ransomware attacks, said Matt Suiche, founder of Dubai-based security firm Comae Technologies, said in a phone interview to Bloomberg.

Kaspersky Lab Accused of Close Links to FSB, Removed From USG's GSA Listing

Yesterday, Bloomberg ran a story entitled "Kaspersky Lab Has Been Working With Russian Intelligence", in which the editors said that "Emails show the security-software maker developed products for the FSB and accompanied agents on raids." Eugene Kaspersky, Kaspersky CEO, naturally responded by saying that claims about Kaspersky Lab's ties to the Kremlin are "unfounded conspiracy theories" and "total BS." Bloomberg Businessweek even goes so far as to say that Kaspersky Lab has "maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia's main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted. It has developed security technology at the spy agency's behest and worked on joint projects the CEO knew would be embarrassing if made public."

In the same article, Bloomberg's editors go on to say that "The U.S. government hasn't identified any evidence connecting Kaspersky Lab to Russia's spy agencies (...) In June, FBI agents visited a number of the company's U.S. employees at their homes, asking to whom they reported and how much guidance they received from Kaspersky's Moscow headquarters. And a bill was introduced in Congress that would ban the U.S. military from using any Kaspersky products (...)", with one senator calling ties between the company and the Kremlin "very alarming."
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