But ultimately does it matter that much? After all the major part of ARM's intellectual property creation takes place outside China and outside Chinese control and ARM can surely withhold next-generation IP cores and architectures from any recalcitrant subsidiary?
It matters because many companies looking at processor architecture decisions are wondering whether the more recently developed, open-source RISC-V architecture is the better route to go. I would contend that any inability at ARM to control its subsidiary – and potentially its IP – weakens ARM's value proposition.
If the situation between ARM and ARM China is unsustainable the question then becomes what happens next?
Does ARM back away from China and 25 percent or more of its business?
Does ARM China rename itself and fly off as a separate 'fork' of the ARM instruction set architecture to conduct its own development work and licensing?
And would a patent infringement lawsuit be worth filing?
Having said – or asked – all that, at least one customer is reportedly warming to ARM IP. Apple is expected to announce soon the switch of processors for its Mac computers from Intel devices to its own design of ARM-based processor (see Intel fail foreseen: ARM reportedly wins Mac computer processor design-ins).
Such a development would be significant. It would follow on from ARM design wins in Google Chromebook computers and represent a flagship design win in the personal computer space, previously a market dominated by Intel. Having started in mobile phones ARM-based processors have extended their domain to embedded processing, server computing and personal computing.
Every crisis is also an opportunity. And the situation in China is ARM's opportunity to sort out its arrangements there. But with two superpowers looking over his shoulders, this job may even be above the pay grade of ARM CEO Simon Segars.
Related links and articles: