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Stalled for Phones and Removed from Android, RISC-V Will Succeed Elsewhere

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Google has stripped RISC-V from the Android Common Kernel reports Android Authority, dealing a blow to those hoping to see the open instruction-set architecture (ISA) power a smartphone. Acknowledging the code removal while simultaneously pledging ongoing support, Google’s PR doublespeak further erodes confidence in its RISC-V plans. Realistically, however, RISC-V Android devices were never likely to blossom soon unless something went drastically wrong with Arm.

Chipmakers had been concerned about Arm owing to the now-scotched Nvidia acquisition, a licensing dispute with Qualcomm, and Arm potentially changing long-standing business practices. Concerns about the lattermost have faded; although the Qualcomm dispute continues, the company is advancing its Arm-based designs.

Devices other than smartphones employ Android, however. Smartwatches and industrial-equipment control panels, for example, can run the OS. Such systems don’t require the broad software compatibility of a smartphone and are, therefore, more likely to employ Android on RISC-V for application processing. The open ISA could also gain an application-processing foothold in communications infrastructure and data-center AI systems that likewise have few compatibility requirements.

In summary, for smartphone application processing, RISC-V has always faced obstacles beyond Android support. These challenges are less prominent in other designs, and we expect the ISA to land more application-processing roles as its momentum in deeply embedded, control, and coprocessing functions continues.


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