RISC-V, this little revolution that Google wants to trigger on Android

RISC-V, this little revolution that Google wants to trigger on Android

The coming years could well mark a small revolution in the mobile world. After being dependent for years on the ARM architecture (marketed by the company of the same name) to build its phones, Google now wants to diversify its technical base by adding support for an entirely new mobile architecture to Android: RISC-V.

Android wants to adopt RISC-V

Today, our phones, tablets, and even some Apple computers are based on processors using the ARM architecture. This is a very specific way of building mobile chips (which is opposed to the Intel architecture of “classic” PCs), the license of which has belonged to ARM Ltd since 1983. As a result, all chip manufacturers, whether it’s Apple, Qualcomm or Google, have to pay that company to build mobile processors. ARM’s dominance in the mobile chip sector has therefore been almost total for years.

There is, however, an alternative to ARM: the RISC-V (pronounced “RISC five”) architecture. Launched in 2010 by the University of Berkeley in California, this project aims to create a new generation of chips freed from the burden of technical compatibility with “legacy” hardware architectures. But what makes RISC-V particularly interesting is less its innovative side than its open source philosophy. Unlike the ARM architecture, whose use is subject to the goodwill of the company that develops it, RISC-V can be freely used by anyone who wishes.

Already present in some connected objects, RISC-V chips could well land on our smartphones in a few years. Google recently announced that development work for Android on this platform had begun and that RISC-V was now considered a “Tier-1” architecture, i.e. as important as ARM in the process. Android development. It will certainly still take time before the mobile OS runs properly on the platform, but the efforts are underway. And since good news never comes alone, Android developers shouldn’t have to do any extra work to run their apps on RISC-V processors.

A boon for China

In addition to being less technically locked in than the ARM architecture (and costing nothing to use), RISC-V has the enormous advantage of not being affected by the economic war between the United States and China. Since the sanctions decided by Donald Trump in 2019, Chinese companies do not always have access to ARM technologies. As a result, many firms have set their sights on RISC-V, since the foundation is now located in Switzerland and is not subject to the American embargo.

Given the firepower of Chinese manufacturers and Google’s interest in RISC-V, it is very likely that we will hear about this technology again in the years to come.

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