The big picture: Chip design firm Arm has revealed that it has signed a long-term licensing deal with Apple to provide designs for future iPhone and Mac chipsets. All iPhone and iPad devices have been powered by Arm-based chips since their inception, while Mac computers transitioned to Arm relatively recently when Apple ditched Intel CPUs in favor of its own, in-house M-series chips.
In a filing with the SEC earlier this week, Arm said that the deal "extends beyond 2040" as part of its longstanding relationship with Apple. The company also highlighted its continuing collaboration with a slew of other technology and automotive giants from around the world, including Amazon, Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Mercedes Benz, Siemens, Raspberry Pi, and others.
Currently, almost all of Apple's popular hardware products are powered by chipsets with Arm cores. That includes not only all Mac desktops, MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads, but also the entire Apple Watch lineup, AirPods, HomePods, and Apple TV set-top-boxes. As pointed out by Reuters, the relationship between the two companies dates back more than three decades, with Apple being one of the companies that founded Arm back in 1990. In 1993, Apple also released a handheld computer called 'Newton' that was powered by an Arm-based chip. While that device sank without a trace, it was a precursor for what was to come in the following decades.
Apple is not alone in its preference for Arm either, as the vast majority of mobile gadgets from most manufacturers these days come with Arm-designed chips. As of 2023, Arm designs are used to manufacture mobile SoCs by leading tech companies like Qualcomm, Apple, Amazon, Samsung, Nvidia, MediaTek, Unisoc, and others.
The only mass-market consumer products that still don't use Arm cores are traditional PCs, but the company is also trying hard to break into that segment in recent years. Towards that end, some Windows laptops powered by Arm-based Qualcomm chipsets are already available in the market, although they are yet to gain the same sort of traction as the traditional X86-powered computers.
The deal between Apple and Arm comes just ahead of the proposed Arm IPO that is expected to value the company at over $60 billion. Apple is expected to be one of the major investors in the IPO alongside fellow tech giants, Amazon, Samsung, Intel and Nvidia, among others. Overall, Arm is said to be in talks with around 10 companies about investing in its initial public offering.