Intel could buy SiFive to compete against Arm with RISC-V chip technology

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Intel is debating the possibility of acquiring SiFive, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke to Reuters. SiFive is a company that is closely associated with the open-source community and is seen as a potential challenger that could take on Intel’s rival, Arm.

SiFive is based in San Mateo, California, and is a startup that employs several of the creators of the open-source chip technology RISC-V, which is challenging Arm, the British chip technology firm that’s being acquired by NVidia in a $40 billion deal. Both SiFive and Intel declined to comment.

Intel mulls

Bloomberg reported Intel’s interest on Thursday, citing a source saying that the chipmaker is debating whether to drop $2 billion on the chip technology. Along with rival Qualcomm, Intel is already an investor in SiFive, which raised $61 million in a funding round that was led by Korea’s SK Hynix. SiFive is designing computing cores that use its RISC-V chip technology. The underlying architecture used in the cores is open-source but the core designs are not and can be sold.

What’s in it for Intel?

Intel could get a library of IP to use as it likes for its chips, and license it out to customers who are being invited to work with the chipmaker as it opens up its factories to outsiders. Intel has already confirmed that it plans to license out computing cores based on its proprietary x86 architecture to customers as part of the contract manufacturing business it is running.

Intel will also see software gains as SiFive is working to make it easier to program computing chips and hired the prominent Silicon Valley computer scientist Chris Lattner for that. Lattner previously led the creation of the Swift programming language for Apple, among other programming language teams at Google.