AMD and Nvidia to Enter ARM Processor Market as RISC-V Faces Challenges
ARM architecture is gaining popularity year by year. Now, not only Apple but other major companies are utilizing it for developing modern chips for laptops and PCs. Recently, it was revealed that both AMD and Nvidia independently started working on processors based on ARM architecture. Here are the details:
Producing ARM or Falling Behind?
As ARM architecture boasts numerous advantages, chips based on it are highly performant and consume less energy compared to x86 solutions. Although ARM is not a panacea, its merits are evident, especially in the server industry: Solutions based on ARM chips can vary, making them adaptable for different tasks, from standard to highly specific. Server equipment with ARM chips is typically smaller in size than x86-based systems. ARM-based hardware tends to be more energy-efficient, as previously mentioned.
ARM processors also perform exceptionally well in consumer devices, as evidenced by Apple, which has been using these chips in its devices for quite some time. In 2020, Apple announced its shift to solely using in-house developed processors, parting ways with Intel processors, a partnership dating back to 2006.
Judging by the performance of Apple’s ARM-based MacBook, those decision-makers at Apple who decided to transition to the new architecture were on the right track. MacBooks offer excellent battery life and impressive performance, along with efficient heat management. Even in very powerful Apple systems, you won’t find massive cooling systems.
Recognizing the merits of ARM architecture, both AMD and Nvidia have decided to join the ranks of processor manufacturers already working with ARM. However, both companies have limited experience with this architecture. Specifically, Nvidia is moving into processor development, not just graphics chips, where the company is well-established.
According to representatives from both companies, the first models of their new processors are expected to be introduced in 2025. However, the projects are so extensive that a more precise date cannot be provided at this early stage of development.
Additionally, both companies have announced plans to target a portion of the consumer device market, rather than focusing solely on corporate clients. To avoid inconveniencing their users, AMD and Nvidia ARM chips will support Windows OS, ensuring that computer and laptop buyers won’t encounter compatibility issues.
It’s worth noting that Windows has had ARM processor support since 2015, starting with Windows 10. Windows 11 has significantly expanded ARM support.
As new players in the field, AMD and Nvidia will have to compete with existing ARM chip manufacturers. The competition is expected to be intense. However, both Nvidia and AMD have the necessary resources and capabilities to enter this new market segment, and both companies have demonstrated their proficiency in implementing new ideas and achieving their goals.
For Nvidia, the consumer device market is an attractive target. While the company is well-established in graphics chips, it has limited presence in the laptop and desktop processor segment.
AMD, on the other hand, can significantly strengthen its position in the consumer chip market. The company has already held a strong position for some time, and this new market segment will provide further growth opportunities.
Both companies will need to invest financially and resource-wise to enter this new industry, including hiring specialists – a resource that is often in short supply.
Another challenge is compatibility issues. Code written for x86 processors won’t work on ARM without emulators, ports, and more. However, Apple has successfully navigated this challenge twice with its transitions, first from PowerPC to Intel and then from Intel to ARM. In both instances, the company developed emulators that worked seamlessly.
In summary, there don’t seem to be insurmountable challenges for AMD and Nvidia in this endeavor. What’s essential is a clear strategy for developing this new sector and avoiding negative external factors such as pandemics.
What About RISC-V?
In the world of RISC-V processors, SiFive, one of the key players, unexpectedly decided to lay off around 20% of its workforce. The company stated that it was optimizing expenses and rationalizing its business. However, many of the experienced engineers who worked on SiFive’s products for years were among those who left the company.
Over the past few years, the company has invested significantly in the RISC-V ecosystem, contributing to the technology’s development. SiFive specializes in developing commercial solutions based on the open RISC-V architecture, including computing cores, processor assemblies, development kits, and more. For example, the company became the first to produce 64-bit RISC-V chips with four cores and full Linux distribution support.
From a financial standpoint, the company appears to be doing well. However, the loss of valuable specialists could play a significant, and not necessarily positive, role for SiFive and the industry as a whole.
- I'm Vasyl Kolomiiets, a seasoned tech journalist regularly contributing to global publications. Having a profound background in information technologies, I seamlessly blended my technical expertise with my passion for writing, venturing into technology journalism. I've covered a wide range of topics including cutting-edge developments and their impacts on society, contributing to leading tech platforms.
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