Google, Qualcomm to launch RISC-V-based platform for wearables

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RISC-V, the upstart chip architecture, has stepped further into the market for processors.

Semiconductor giant Qualcomm today announced that it’s building a RISC-V-based wearables platform for Wear OS, Google’s operating system for smartwatches.

The system will expand Qualcomm’s lineup of Snapdragon Wear processors, which power the bulk of Wear OS products.

According to Qualcomm, the new solution will reduce the time to market for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) when launching smartwatches.

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The company told TNW that RISC-V offers both performance and power advantages for wearable platforms.

“Our Snapdragon Wear platform innovations will help the Wear OS ecosystem rapidly evolve and streamline new device launches,” said Dino Bekis, a vice president at Qualcomm.

The platform is another boost to RISC-V, which is providing growing competition to Arm, the UK-based chip designer. RISC-V’s open-source instruction sets offer a low-cost, efficient, and customisable alternative to Arm’s blueprints.

In August, five chipmakers, including Qualcomm, announced a new alliance to commercialise the emerging contender. Qualcomm has been one of Arm’s biggest customers, but the two companies are now embroiled in a legal battle. 

Tensions between the partners emerged during the proposed Nvidia takeover. In May 2022, Qualcomm’s CEO said he wanted to buy a stake in Arm — or even acquire it outright. A few months later, Arm sued Qualcomm. The lawsuit accuses the US business of using Arm IP without permission.

RISC V prototype chip.