The Future Looks Bright for RISC-V Processors

Modern devices are powered by a few different CPU architectures, all of which have advantages and drawbacks. We have the x86 architecture, which mostly powers Windows computers, consoles, and other devices, and we have the ARM architecture, which powers most phones, tablets, smart TVs, and more recently, Mac computers. There is a third option that’s still in its infancy, yet wants to become much bigger: RISC-V. Now, Qualcomm and a consortium of other chipmakers are dumping a lot of money into RISC-V.

RISC-V is an architecture that has a big selling point compared to ARM, x86, x86_64 and most other CPU architectures: it’s open-source and completely royalty-free. That means manufacterors don’t need a (potentially pricey) license to build products around RISC-V or even create new RISC-V processors. The architecture, as we mentioned, still has a long way to go before it can even be a remotely viable alternative to ARM or x86, but it’s getting there. There are a few companies making commercially available RISC-V products, such as Pine64, and Google is working to make Android on RISC-V as stable and reliable as Android on ARM.

Qualcomm, in partnership with Robert Bosch GmbH, Infineon Technologies AG, Nordic Semiconductor, and NXP Semiconductors, has announced that the five companies will jointly form, and invest, a new company that will help advance and further the development of RISC-V products and their subsequent commercialization. This company will be based in Germany and will not only advocate for the making of RISC-V products but also provide reference architectures. It’s not clear when this company will be formed, or how it’ll be called, but the statement says that the formation will be subject to regulatory approval, so it might need to take a while. Qualcomm currently manufactoers many of the ARM-based chips used in phones, tablets, and ARM Windows laptops, so this is a pretty big deal.

Ziad Asghar, Senior Vice President of Product Management, said in a statement, “Qualcomm Technologies has been investing in RISC-V for more than five years and we’ve integrated RISC-V micro-controllers into many of our commercial platforms. We believe RISC-V’s open-source instruction set will increase innovation and has the potential to transform the industry.”

RISC-V needs commitment in order for it to grow bigger, so in that regard, it’s good to see big chipmakers involving themselves on it. On the other hand, we’ll have to see how heavy that involvement gets, and whether that involvement actually aligns with RISC-V’s open-source vision — especially seeing how the end goal here is commercialization.

Source: Qualcomm

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