With Apple designing their own mobile and PC processors, the company is now exploring and developing various embedded subsystems across all Operating Systems using RISC-V. The emerging Open Source RISC-V architecture is now being used by companies like Nvidia, Google, Oculus, Qualcomm, Rambus and others for IoT devices to supercomputers, smartwatches and autonomous vehicles. Amazon and Alibaba are currently designing their own cloud and data center chips. This week Apple was shown to be recruiting RISC-V "high-performance programmers.
More specifically, Apple is currently seeking out experienced programmers with detailed knowledge of the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA) and Arm’s Neon vector ISA for the Vector and Number Group (VaNG) of its core operating system group. Apple's VaNG is responsible for the development and improvement of various embedded subsystems running on iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS.
Apple, known for its confidentiality, did not disclose what it intends to do with RISC-V in the recruitment information, but the job description shows that programmers will have to engage in machine learning, computational vision, and natural language processing. Among other things, low-level high-performance programming experience is required. In addition, the job description also indicates that Apple is already using RISC-V.
Apple currently has dozens of products that span multiple product lines. For example, high-performance devices such as MacBook laptops, iPhone smartphones, iPad tablets, and Apple TV set-top boxes are based on customized system-on-chips (SoCs) that use highly customized Arm cores. In addition, Apple's watches, AirPods, and HomePod Mini devices all use system-in-package (SiP) with Arm technology, and Apple also uses Arm cores (such as T2, W3, U1, etc.) in its controllers.
Apple needs to pay a license fee to Arm to use Arm cores . As the number of cores used for SSD master control and smart watches will only increase, Apple's payment to Arm will also increase. Therefore, replacing at least some Arm cores with RISC-V cores can save Apple a lot of patent fees every year , just as Western Digital adopted RISC-V cores for its low-power solutions many years ago.
Below is a presentation from the CEO of RISC-V International that provides a great technical overview of this next-gen open era of computing. This is followed by an Engadget presentation, which is super-hyper but very informative as well.
RISC-V: The Open Era of Computing Presentations
Other Articles and Resources include:
01: Wikipedia (basics)
02: An Open Alternative to Intel and ARM: What is RISC-V?
03: What is RISC-V?
04: RISC-V – Berkeley Architecture Research
05: History of RISC-V (Berkeley)