Intel is rumored to have made a $2.1B offer for RISC-V chip designer SiFive. SiFive is not a chip manufacturer itself. Somewhat like ARM, it designs CPUs for market and then sells those designs to others. We’ve covered several of the company’s development boards in the last few years as RISC-V has ramped up.
Intel has previously invested in SiFive, and Intel told the press that it was working to be able to build RISC-V CPUs for customers as part of its overall foundry effort. The talks are said to be in the early stages and nothing has been finalized.
Purchasing RISC-V would give Intel a substantial stake in a rapidly expanding market. Most of the companies currently known to be developing RISC-V CPUs are deploying them in low-performance and low-power scenarios, but SiFive has been working on faster CPUs for several years.
Intel buying SiFive would not change the fact that the RISC-V ISA is open source or stop other companies from building their own RISC-V CPUs. The last thing Intel would want to do is step on the nascent ecosystem. Intel is currently investing heavily in expanding its own manufacturing capacity. It needs customers to fill those fabs. Yes, Intel has announced that it will allow companies to license x86 CPU designs going forward, but the details of that program are still murky.