Softbank was founded by Masayoshi Son, an unusually outspoken
businessman in Japan. Son is also Japan’s second richest man, with his
net worth is $8.1 billion as of 2011, according to Forbes
magazine. Son first became known in the U.S. high-tech industry in 1995
as a man who bought Comdex. Softbank subsequently sold it in 2001.
is not shy about pulling off surprises. Such examples
include Softbank becoming the owner of a Japanese professional baseball
team called the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2005 and cutting a deal with
Apple to become the first Japanese company to bring iPhone to the
Japanese market in 2008.
But Softbank's boldest move so far came
in 2006, when it acquired Vodafone Japan, the local arm of the U.K.’s
Vodafone Group, for about 1.75 trillion yen.
According to Nikkei,
with its interest-bearing debt falling to 550 billion yen on a net
basis as of March 31 from its peak of roughly 2 trillion yen, Softbank
is better positioned to embark on acquisitions abroad.
The strong yen is fueling Softbank’s ambitions to become a major player in the global wireless market.
media is speculating that buying Sprint--which competes in the U.S.
against Verizon Wireless and AT&T--would let Softbank gain much
needed scale for procuring at cheaper cost mobile devices including
smartphones and tablets. Both Sprint and Softbank also deploy base
stations from Sweden's LM Ericsson, according to Nikkei, allowing Softbank to believe that it can also curb equipment costs through the acquisition.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.