Intel is looking at possibly purchasing chipmaker SiFive, as it looks to compete with Arm Holdings.
Once the dominant chipmaker in the world, Intel has lost its luster, losing much of the mobile market to Arm Holdings. Arm’s chips are renowned for offering the optimal blend of performance and battery life. Apple has used Arm-based designs to power the iPhone and iPad for years, and recently began migrating its Mac platform away from Intel, in favor of its Arm-based custom silicon.
Intel is keen to reassert its dominance, even stating it would love to get Apple back as a customer. A big step toward regaining its spot at the top is designing chips that can compete in the mobile market and challenge Arm head-on.
According to Bloomberg, Intel is looking at SiFive as a possible option to help jumpstart its ambitions. SiFive currently designs chips based on the RISC-V architecture, and employees several individuals who helped create the architecture. RISC-V is seen as one of the primary competitors to Arm, targeting the same type of applications. Unlike Arm, however, RISC-V was designed to be open source, making it a cheaper alternative.
Because its open source, companies are increasingly seeing RISC-V as an attractive option, with Alibaba recently announcing its Apsara cloud OS would support the chip. Its open source nature is especially attractive to Chinese companies looking to avoid the sanctions and bans Huawei has faced.
Beyond China, many companies are keeping an eye on RISC-V as a result of NVIDIA’s efforts to acquire Arm. Arm has long been considered the Switzerland of the semiconductor industry, willing to work with anyone and everyone. Many companies fear NVIDIA may change that, reserving Arm’s best technology and designs for itself, hurting its relationships with its customers and costing them a competitive advantage.
Intel has reportedly offered as much as $2 billion for SiFive, considerably more than the $500 million it was valued at during its last round of funding in 2020. Should the deal go through, it may help put RISC-V adoption into overdrive.