SiFive hires Qualcomm exec as CEO for RISC-V alternatives to Nvidia-Arm

venturebeat.com
4 min read
fairly difficult
SiFive has hired former Qualcomm executive Patrick Little as its new CEO. His job will be to establish RISC-V processors as an alternative to Arm.
SiFive has hired former Qualcomm executive Patrick Little as its new CEO. His job will be to help establish the company's RISC-V processors as an alternative to Arm in the wake of Nvidia's $40 billion acquisition of the world's leading processor architecture.

SiFive designs processors that can be customized for whatever its customers need, for products ranging from the low end to the high end of the computing spectrum. The processors are based on RISC-V, a free and open architecture created by university researchers a decade ago. They were motivated by principles of "hardware freedom" to offer an alternative to royalty-based processors like those licensed for a fee and controlled by a single company. RISC-V is becoming a bigger deal now that Nvidia has agreed to acquire Arm, Little said in an interview with VentureBeat.

"It's just very clear that the world is moving away from generic processors to workload-focused and optimized solutions," Little said. "It's a fantastic opportunity, and the timing here is phenomenal. The industry is transforming away from general-purpose computing to something domain-focused. With the news this week, it's now accelerating, and the magnitude has really picked up. Now there are many companies saying it's time to look at open versus closed solutions."

The CEOs of Nvidia and Arm have pledged to continue Arm's open licensing strategy. But RISC-V can offer a better deal. The challenge is for it to build up its ecosystem of software, tools, and testing to make it a viable and universal alternative to Arm, which has about 95% of the smartphone market and whose licensees ship more than 22 billion chips a year.

Little succeeds Naveed Sherwani, who will step down from his role as president and CEO but continue to chair SiFive's board. If the company plays its cards right, SiFive could become a key alternative to…
Dean Takahashi
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