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SiFive aims to challenge Arm with new tech, pairs with Intel on effort

·2-min read

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) - SiFive Inc on Tuesday released a new computing chip design that aims to challenge Arm Ltd's dominance in smartphone chips and said it would pair with Intel Corp's factories to make the design available to hardware makers.

SiFive introduced what it calls its P550 computing core design. Computing cores are the engines of most chips, and companies like SiFive and Arm sell their core designs to other companies, who in turn integrate the cores into their chips.

Major chip designers like Qualcomm Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd currently base many of their chips on cores from Arm, which is in the process of being acquired by Nvidia Corp for $40 billion.

SiFive is a startup company whose designs are based on the open-source RISC-V computing architecture, which defines what kind of software can run on the chips. While RISC-V itself is free to use, SiFive's business model is to build designs on top of it and charge money for the designs. Reuters reported earlier this month that Intel was considering an acquisition of SiFive, but Intel on Tuesday again declined to comment on the matter.

SiFive Chief Executive Officer Patrick Little told Reuters in an interview that the SiFive's new P550 core rivals the computing performance of Arm's Cortex A75 core found in many current smartphones but can be made into a smaller chip. He said chips with it could hit the market within nine months but did not name customers.

"We have customers taking this core now and putting it into their designs," Little said.

Intel said it is working with SiFive to ensure that the new cores can be manufactured in its newest 7-nanometer chip factories. Intel will offer those manufacturing services to outside chip companies as part of its effort to become a chip contract manufacturer.

Intel declined to comment on whether it will use SiFive's new technology in any of its own chips, which still have majority market share for laptops, PCs and data center servers.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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