Apple Possibly Exploring Open-Source Alternative to Arm Architecture

Apple may be exploring the possibility of using an open-source alternative to the Arm architecture, which it's been using in its products for decades.

Arm 13 MBP Feature 2
According to a newly posted job alert, spotted by Tom's Hardware, Apple is looking for an engineer that specializes in RISC-V, an open-source architecture instruction set that allows device makers to build their own chips without having to pay a license or royalty. Apple currently uses the Arm architecture in its products, and it pays the company a royalty fee to use its instruction set.

Apple's job posting description states that the engineer will implement "innovative RISC-V solutions and state of the art routines" to Apple's products. Specifically, Apple hopes prospective engineers will be able to work with the RISC-V instruction set, as well as have an understanding of Arm.

Tom's Hardware theorizes that if Apple were to adopt the open-source instruction set of RISC-V, it may save the company money because it wouldn't need to pay Arm a license fee for its instruction set.

Every Arm core requires Apple to pay a licensing fee to Arm, and since the number of cores for things like SSD controllers and smartwatches will only increase, so will Apple's payments to Arm. As such, replacing at least some Arm cores with RISC-V cores could save Apple millions of dollars in royalty payments every year...

The job listing is a confirmation that Apple is exploring the use of RISC-V, but whether the company decides to implement the open-source technology remains to be seen. Apple's reliance on Arm has increased in the past year as Apple is in the process of switching its Mac lineup to Arm-based processors rather than Intel.

Tag: Arm

Top Rated Comments

xnu Avatar
19 months ago
It has been over a year since we switched chips, we were do for change.
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JPack Avatar
19 months ago
Pretty much everyone has joined the RISC-V camp after the tech/trade war began, especially China. Western companies don't want to be limited in their potential customers. Alibaba, Loongson, Red Hat, even MIPS has gone RISC-V.

Even though the NVIDIA acquisition of ARM will probably never complete, Apple is smart to begin investing in RISC-V.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LFC2020 Avatar
19 months ago
Once again, these savings won’t get passed on to us customers, prices will continue to go up. ?‍♂️
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
leman Avatar
19 months ago

Alternatives, sure... but Apple plus open source? Yeah, right
What do you mean? Apple is heavily invested into open source, their platform is in fact built on open source initiatives. For example, virtually every modern browser today traces its codebase to WebKit, an open source browser engine developed by Apple. LLVM, one of the most used compiler frameworks, was built on Apples money.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
leman Avatar
19 months ago
RISC-V is nowhere close to being used in high-performance personal devices. It’s a great teaching platform and it has uses in low-end devices, but that’s about it. There is a lot of work to be done before it becomes a viable alternative to ARM64. But I could see Apple using it for secure coprocessors or something like that.

Also, Apple has an unlimited architecture license agreement with ARM. If they switch architectures again, it won’t be before 10-15 years.


Well, this was inevitable considering how much Apple hates Nvidia (who bought out ARM) over its graphics chip debacle while back. They do not want to pay Nvidia a single cent going forward and going with open source method will likely bring more chip innovation for the company.
The deal is not through yet though.
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
IllinoisCorn Avatar
19 months ago

Once again, these savings won’t get passed on to us customers, prices will continue to go up. ?‍♂️
The MacBook Air today is nearly a $1,000.00 less than it cost when it debuted.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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