After revolutionizing software, the open-source movement is threatening to do same to the chip industry.
Big technology companies have begun dabbling with RISC-V, which replaces proprietary know-how in a key part of the chip design process with a free standard that anyone can use. While it's early days, this could create a new crop of processors that compete with Intel Corp. products and whittle away at the licensing business of Arm Holdings Plc.
In December, about 2,000 people packed into a Silicon Valley conference to learn about RISC-V, a new set of instructions that control how software communicates with semiconductors. In just a few years, RISC-V has grown from a college teaching tool into an open-source standard being explored by industry giants including Google, Samsung Electronics Co., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Qualcomm Inc. and Nvidia Corp.
"Most of the major companies are putting substantial efforts into RISC-V," said Krste Asanovic, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was part of the team that developed the standard. He's co-founder of SiFive Inc., a startup that sells chip designs based on RISC-V (pronounced "risk five").
From The Columbian
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