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Google & Qualcomm Partner On Chipsets

Google and Qualcomm have announced a new partnership in which they are working on an alternative architecture to ARM.

RISC-V is an open source instruction set for CPUs, meaning the chipset designers don’t have to pay royalties like with ARM, which also limits who can create custom CPU cores.

Google and Qualcomm are now working on RISC-V based Snapdragon Wear chipsets “that will power next-generation Wear OS solutions.”

Android currently doesn’t have support for RISC-V as it’s so new, and some parts are still in development. Google also hasn’t decided the baseline features required, however with Wear OS based on Android, it may only be a stepping stone.

ARM charges companies including Qualcomm, Samsung, and MediaTek to use their Cortex CPU designs. Some companies including Apple, use in house designed CPUs, however it requires an expensive “architectural license.”

With RISC-V being open source, it doesn’t mean all CPUs based on it are too. Qualcomm will design its own, developing efficient and performant chips, giving Google an alternative platform.

Qualcomm usually launches new Wear generations every few years. However, a recent press release ended with “Commercial product launch of the RISC-V wearable based solution timing will be disclosed at a later date.”

RISC-V has been around for a few years, attracting a lot of attention from companies such as Bosch, Infineon, and NXP. Western Digital also designed RISC-V cores to use in flash controllers, after previously licensing designs from ARM and Intel, at an added cost.

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