Mergers and Acquisitions: Broadcom, Qualcomm, and One Hundred Billion Dollars

Rumors have been circulating this last weekend of the largest semiconductor acquisition ever. Broadcom might buy Qualcomm for the princely sum of one hundred Billion dollars.

You will most likely be familiar with both Qualcomm and Broadcom for their wireless and cellphone chipsets. As far as the Maker community is concerned, Broadcom makes the chipset for the Raspberry Pi, but in the context of a two hundred Billion dollar company, a ‘maker’ focused Linux dev board is the equivalent of a rounding error on a balance sheet.

This news comes a little more than a year after the announcement that Qualcomm is snatching up NXP, and two years after the news of NXP is merging with Freescale. The industry is in a state of consolidation.

This proposed deal follows several other semiconductor mergers and acquisitions including NXP and Freescale, Intel and Altera, Avago and BroadcomOn Semiconductor and Fairchild, and the one we’re most befuddled with, Atmel and Microchip. Why are these companies merging? Because they’re sitting on mountains of cash. All of these mergers with the exception of Avago and Broadcom, have been for single-digit Billions of dollars. The merger of Broadcom and Qualcomm — if it happens — will be the largest merger of two semiconductor companies ever. That’s easy to do when both Broadcom and Qualcomm are on the top ten list of largest semiconductor companies, but it is evidence enough that the mergers and acquisitions in the industry are not slowing down.

75 thoughts on “Mergers and Acquisitions: Broadcom, Qualcomm, and One Hundred Billion Dollars

    1. I refer you to a) the pending tax ‘fix’ b) the emoliated T, AT&T vs Concepcion, d) the unending extension of copyright and practical removal of public domain, and e) the Citizens United decision. It is here. In the present economic state, individual citizens have no rights to due process when in a dispute with a deep pocket corporation.

    1. And less documented/maker friendly. I still remember when Intel sold XScale line to Marvell. End result – all datasheets that were freely available turned into “NDA only”. In the end, as there was a stash of those datasheets floating over the net, Marvell declared that “those are unofficial, use at your own risk”. Or something like that, if my memory serves me right.

    2. Currently Analog Devices and Xilinx are two very good companies when it comes to open documentation, software support, and Linux friendliness. Hopefully they don’t get snatched up by larger companies and made closed off to the general public. Qualcomm RF chipsets are nearly impossible to use or obtain for small business and makers.

  1. Yay. More datasheets behind NDA’s and just hidden. Not buying 10million units?, no datasheet for you!
    Qualcomm is known for aggressively getting datasheets of it’s devices removed from the net.
    So I can start counting time to when I can cross of NXP/Freescale LDMOS devices off my list of parts to use.
    Let alone their MCU’s.

          1. I expect John Deere to be out of business in a few years since they treat their customers so badly that even a eastern European or Chinese piece of equipment is a lower risk investment.

      1. Tor onion sites is a possibility. I’m a bit surprised that I don’t read about/ see a lot about using Tor onion sites for file sharing. Perhaps a lot of people are already using it for such and it’s just not talked about much.

      2. That is not a viable possibility. We are not so closely knit group (“freemasons^H^H^H^Hkers”) that it could function. It would only bring public into darknet and over time make it another copy of ordinary regulated internet. The future is bleak. High technology has high barrier to entry and we outsiders can be easily pushed out. We will either have to do some clever probing and reversing, or perhaps boycott the technology completely, “Fahrenheit 451” style, and try to reinvent things from first principles.

        We are just the first ones who are getting appalled by the direction the things are going in, but as their power against public rises, the overlords will inevitably yield to temptation of seemingly absolute power and piss off steadily rising proportion of general population, until there is a critical mass of Luddites and perhaps even a significant religious zealot movement prophesying outright return into Dark Ages (remember Library of Alexandria?). I hope that powers that be will understand the implications and keep technology and knowledge democratic and not public-averse. Alternately, they might decide that we are the problems and push harsher laws for further criminalization of acquiring knowledge of inner workings of things. But I am sure that such actions would seal the fate of the civilization exactly as described above: eventually remaining clueless but oppressed masses will revolt against tyranny of “mages”, reject centuries of progress and return the world into simple agrarian society.

        1. Technical PDF’s are definitely not mainstream enough to cause the general public to massively go to a darknet if they were found there.
          I’d say 1 in a million interest as a wild ballpark guess? Or perhaps that’s too high a number, 1 in 5 million?

      3. But you cannot share those for your project. And even if you do, the links will go down.
        So even if you find the datasheets via furious googling and use of yandex & baidu, others cannot benefit from linking to them.
        If you share them yourself then the whole documentation for the project might get taken down.
        And that’s just hobbyist use.

        The NDA’d documents make it harder for small players, especially open hardware companies to use any of the chips.
        Slowly but surely it’s gona start being more and more about reverse engineering the parts you need by using marketing materials and translating datasheets in Chinese. And even those are hard to find.

        1. It’s a self fixing problem, if hobbyists can’t use them, students will also have difficulty, and if students can’t use them, they won’t know or respect them when they’re engineers, they use somebody elses parts or open cores, and dumbass company goes out of business.

          Don’t sit around whining that it hurts to saw your leg off in attempt to please or appease self appointed chip god, just don’t do it.

          1. True those NDAs prevent new people from learning about said chips and the next generation of engineers would have learned on something else.
            Could be a way for Intel and AMD to break into the mobile chip market or Freescale to get PPC back into mainstream embedded make a line with full documentation and no ME like features as they’re not needed for non enterprise applications.
            That or eventually someone else would be more hobbyist friendly and they’ll rule the future market.
            To win it doesn’t have to be better just good enough.

        1. Actually come to think of it, that might be a good trick: if some US company is trying to buy you you should go to Gazprom or some Chinese outfit or some such and say ‘do you want us to get into US hands or..?; and get some competition going at least.

        2. I’ve noticed that too. I started noticing when Nokia and Blackberry went down the gutter in a short period of time, leaving the remaining dominant phone makers all conveniently based in the US. The fact that Blackberry suffered from a sudden and unexplained multiple day server outage didn’t really ease the nerves either.

          Even if it’s not deliberate, it isn’t really great news for the rest of the world.

          1. Still crying over BB? Good riddance! And for nationalistic reasons? If I were Canadian I probably wouldn’t think any different about RIM but if I did it would involve much shame.

            Before they finally became irrelevant I had the privilege of working on a web based application that was meant to be used in mobile devices. Unfortunately a significant percentage of our customers were using Blackberry phones. Those jerks couldn’t even implement an html parser properly! I had no problems writing common html, css and javascript that functioned on old versions of pocket IE and current (at the time) WebKit based browsers. And yet.. virtually everything required special casing and hacks to prevent BB from mucking it up! They could have just used KHTML (I mean Webkit) for free! Why did they have to implement their own html parser poorly?!?! Seriously, what was more important then, or is more important now for a device than being able to render html correctly? If you thought your BB brick did a good job it’s only because a whole lot of web developers did double work to hack around all your BB’s suckiness.

            Then there was the way all their internet traffic went through their own servers. Why not just make a device that talks to the internet directly through it’s own connection to the provider? What a POS!

            I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to personal preference and their form factor. Maybe some people like a brick full of buttons with a tiny LCD. Maybe having the imprint of all those buttons on ones cheek skin after every phone call was a status symbol. Slide out keyboards rocked.

            So… anyway.. back on topic… don’t cry for o’le BB. They sucked and deserved what they got!

          2. LG and Samsung are not US companies though their software is not that good some apps such as Peel remote are at best shovelware but at least they’re not Apple who doesn’t even let you repair your own device.

        1. pretty much the same with nvidia, it makes me laugth when opensource guys want datasheets that do not exist in the first place (at least not in the sense of traditional datasheet ala Motorola).

          1. Mostly internal specs, RTL code and/or derived from RTL (like generated headers for registers). Nothing like a true polished reference manual. As there is no outside customers, no need for formal docs, it’s a waste of time.

  2. Now that the patent wars have achieved their goal — blocking all newcomers from becoming actual players in the field — the easiest way to maximize profits is reducing competition, so that clients have no options but to pay more for less.

    If you expect any of this to lower the prices or bring customer benefits, you’re so out of touch with reality that I have no options but to recommend either a custodian, or heavy medication and therapy.

    If you are an Owner, all this is good news, of course: just money coming to money.

    1. Patent war is exactly what is killing qcom. Licence and patent are their bread and butter, but now they have eaten all their white bread, apple want them to eat stale brown bread instead.

  3. Why cant we see a merger where a company that is pro-openness and DOES share all its data sheets and information (Texas Instruments for example seems to be somewhat open with the TI OMAP SoCs for example) buys a company that doesn’t share and then switches the attitude towards pro-sharing?

    1. That partially happened when Analog Devices bought Hittite.
      Before that sourcing Hittite parts as a hobbyist was hard and the easiest way to get them was to lurk on ebay.
      Thanks to Analog Devices you can now buy them on Digikey and Mouser.

      Availability matters in addition to open documentation.
      Good open documentation means nothing if MOQ is 100k units.

    1. Funny thing: I know of company with an NDA with Broadcom. When Broadcom heard about business with NXP they terminated their NDA. What shall Broadcom do now, when they also own (indirectly) NXP? :-)

      1. please, stop talking about Republicans and Democrats, they are one and the same; only different colors to fool the peasants … It’s just a facade. Their only goal is to serve their corporate masters

      2. Here in the USA political party doesn’t matter much because we have a government of the merchants, for the merchants, by the merchants. The merchant’s that make money from the labor of others aren’t going to allow labor have seats in the chambers of government.

  4. I hear qualcomm isn’t very interested. And oddly, I hear broadcom is valued at 77 billion, so it’s not really them but their parent company that is doing this since broadcom cold not manage 100 billion obviously. But qualcomm thinks it’s way underpriced still.

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