Apple would seek to use the RISC-V architecture in its next chips

It is not because Apple abandoned the x86 architecture to create its own chips that it is married to the ARM architecture currently used in the chips intended for the iPhone and Apple Watch, like those of the Mac and iPad. We knew that the company was interested in RISC-V, a more recent architecture which has the big advantage of being open and non-proprietary like its historical competitors. According to Dylan Patel, an analyst specializing in this field, Apple is now actively working to add a touch of RISC-V to its future homemade chips.

There is no question (yet?) of replacing the processor cores or the graphics cores integrated into Apple chips, they will remain on the ARM architecture until further notice. On the other hand, the company would seek to replace ARM in the dozens of specialized ARM cores which are also found in the systems-on-chip designed by it. These cores have no visible role for the user, but they manage many essential functions of a smartphone, from the camera to battery management, for example.

The detail of a prototype RISC-V chip (Chiara Coetzee (CC0 1.0)).

This specialist has confirmed that the conversion work from ARM to RISC-V is now active at Apple for these auxiliary cores. The Apple A16 was released too recently to rule out the possibility that this is already a reality, but it should come in the next few years. For these components, this transition is obvious, the whole industry follows this same trend, because it allows both to save money, to improve its independence and to offer new opportunities in terms of optimization. So many arguments that necessarily convinced Cupertino.

Since you don’t have to pay for a license to use RISC-V, it’s always so much less to give to Arm, the company that manages the architecture of the same name. This same company keeps control of the design of its cores, while this new architecture allows everything to be modified, which can be very useful for optimizing them for specific tasks. Dylan Patel points out that this is what Google has done for specialized chips in its data center and Apple could do the same in its chips.

In addition to these advantages, the ARM architecture can scare a company that loves its independence as much as Apple. Even if the operation did not succeed, the acquisition of Arm by Nvidia probably raised some alarm bells in Cupertino. There is no question of abandoning ARM overnight, but one can imagine that Apple gradually reduces its dependence on this architecture by using more and more RISC-V cores in its chips.


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