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Qualcomm, Samsung and Intel revealed as investors in SiFive, an ARM alternative

Qualcom, Samsung and Intel are all investors in RISC-V fabless US-based chip designing company SiFive. (Source: SiFive)
Qualcom, Samsung and Intel are all investors in RISC-V fabless US-based chip designing company SiFive. (Source: SiFive)
RISC-V chip designer SiFive it has been revealed to have some pretty interesting investors. A recent filing shows that it has raised US$65.4 million in its latest funding round including a cash injection from Qualcomm that sees it join fellow heavyweights in Samsung and Intel as investors.

The leading RISC-based chip designer on the market is Cambridge-based ARM Holdings, which was originally co-founded by Apple. Both Qualcomm's Snapdragon chips and Samsung's Exynos chips are built using ARM architectures while Intel once produced ARM-based Xscale chips and remains and ARM licensee. So, it is particularly interesting to learn that all three companies are investors in SiFive a company that is focused on creating custom RISC-V chips, but with a focus on embedded IoT silicon.

What sets SiFive RISC-V silicon apart from ARM's is that it is an open-source technology originating out of the University of California, Berkley. ARM had considered SiFive to be a sufficient threat that it until recently had a webpage dedicated to anti-RISC V propaganda -- it was only at the request of ARM's staff that the company pulled down the page. Like ARM, SiFive is a fabless chip designer, leaving the fabrication to its partners.

SiFive appears to have caught the eye of Qualcomm, Samsung and Intel because it allows customers to rapidly design custom RISC-V chips in weeks instead of months of designing. This compares with ARM-based designs that can take six months or more to compile. Capping things off, SiFive says that it can deliver customers sample chips "within weeks" which undoubtedly helps to cut significant costs from the chip designing equation.

Could RISC-V help come to the rescue of Huawei? Possibly. Although, as a US-based company, Huawei wouldn't be able to use SiFive's chip designing technology. It could, however, utilize the RISC-V architecture as it is open-source, as is Google Android Open Source Project. That said, it isn't clear just how scalable RISC-V chips are and whether they would be suitable for high-end smartphones. Undoubtedly, however, it is an avenue that Huawei is likely exploring.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2019 06 > Qualcomm, Samsung and Intel revealed as investors in SiFive, an ARM alternative
Sanjiv Sathiah, 2019-06- 9 (Update: 2019-06- 9)
Sanjiv Sathiah
Sanjiv Sathiah - News Editor
I have been tech-obsessed from the time my father introduced me to my first computer, an Apple ][. Since then, I have grown to enjoy exploring and experimenting with any computing platform that I can get my hands on – I am the definitive early adopter! I have always been interested in how we can use technology to shape and improve our lives, most recently using it to record, mix and master my debut record, Acuity – Nature | Nurture out now on Spotify.