Arm Holdings, the UK’s principal semiconductor and software design company has issued a memo to its staff indicating they must cease working with Huawei. This will be a bitter blow for Huawei where a large number of its business units utilise Arm-powered processors.
In the memo to staff Arm said all employees must stop, ‘all active contracts, support entitlements and any pending engagements,’ with Huawei.
And while Arm, being UK-based, would be exempt from President Trump’s executive order, America is a crucial arena for the company. Their Instruction-Set Architecture (ISA) technology is licensed to companies such as Apple, Qualcomm and Samsung.
Arm is a market leader for processors in mobile phones and tablets and is the best-known of the Silicon Fen companies clustered around Cambridge. In 2016 it was bought by the Japanese firm SoftBank.
SoftBank itself has recently cut ties with Huawei with the decision to cease the sales of Huawei P30 series of phones, which were scheduled to start this week. SoftBank operates its own-brand mobile network in Japan and its own Y! Mobile subsidiary.
And hot on their heels, Taiwan’s state-owned Chunghwa Telecom has halted ‘buying new Huawei devices for sale as of now.’ Chunghwa gave its reasons that, ‘we will not sell new Huawei smartphones, given that those would not be supported by Google’s services.’
Arm’s ban is for new licenses with Huawei but the Chinese firm already license’s the ARMV8 and has the necessary information and expertise to manufacture chips based on Arms technology. So, it is unclear, at present how damaging the withdrawal of cooperation will be.
And, given the relatively long lead time for chip design and manufacturing should give Huawei some breathing space. Huawei has also stockpiled at least three months of chips from other vendors in anticipation of the American led trade dispute.
Arm has greatly benefited following the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities that impacted adversely on Intel, its major rival. It remains to be seen how harmful the company’s latest decison will be.