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Qualcomm shows more interest in RISC-V

by on07 August 2023

Arm should be worried

One of Arm's biggest customers Qualcomm is trying out RISC-V and getting involved in a joint venture dedicated to the architecture.

The project doesn't have a name but includes Qualcomm, NXP, Nordic Semiconductor, Bosch, and memory giant Infineon. Qualcomm's press release says the new outfit is "aimed at advancing the adoption of RISC-V globally by enabling next-generation hardware development."

Arm has little to worry about initially. The group will be focused on automotive uses, but the press release mentions an "eventual expansion" to IoT and mobile which should make Arm twitchy.

There are signs that Qualcomm will not want to be rushing into RISC-V as it just spent a fortune on the Arm-based Nuvia.  If Nuvia lives up to its potential, Qualcomm's Arm chips would be competitive enough not to need RISC-V technology.

The company says chips from Nuvia are expected to hit the market in 2024 for PCs so that Qualcomm will be sticking with Arm for a while longer. Qualcomm's "Snapdragon Automotive" products are usually based on five-year-old phone designs. A RISC-V transition, if one ever comes, is a few years down the line.

RISC-V could damage Arm due to its open source licensing, which lets companies avoid the fees Arm charges to make any chip compatible with its instruction set. RISC-V makes a good backup against Arm in case the company has issues.

Arm has been telling customers to expect a "radical shake-up" of its business model, with the plan to charge "several times more" for chip licenses. Arm is also suing Qualcomm over a licensing fee disagreement related to its acquisition of Nuvia.


Last modified on 07 August 2023
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