The approach by the x86 processor giant was among a number of takeover offers made to the semiconductor startup, according to Bloomberg, which cited unnamed sources.
It's said these discussions are in an early stage, no deal may ever be reached, and SiFive may prefer to take an investment round from interested parties rather than sell out. It raised $61m last year in a series-E round, and has been valued at an estimated $500m. SiFive has Qualcomm, Western Digital, and SK Hynix among its backers, and is said to have tapped up potential advisers to deal with this outside interest.
There is a concern Intel is interested in SiFive not because it wants to pivot away from x86, or offer an alternative architecture on an equal footing as x86, but because it wants to be an inconvenience for Nvidia, which is trying to swallow Arm, the market leader in SiFive's world. Intel once tried to take on Arm in the mobile and embedded space, and gave up when it failed. Intel may be interested in vacuuming up any customers of Arm that do not wish to or cannot work with Nvidia, if that merger goes through.
If Intel is after SiFive to exploit Nvidia's ambitions with Arm, there's a danger SiFive could be left on the shelf along with FPGA maker Altera, which Intel bought for $16.7bn in 2015, if that strategy doesn't work out.