June 10 - Intel Corp is debating an offer to buy SiFive Inc, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters, a company closely associated with open-source technology that is challenging the rise of Intel's rival Arm Ltd.
SiFive, a San Mateo, California-based startup, employs several of the creators of RISC-V, an open-source chip technology that is challenged by Nvidia Corp. The British chip technology firm which has been acquired by Arm for $40 billion. Both Arm and SiFive sell intellectual property such as chip designs to others who ultimately produce the chips.
Both SIFIFIVE and Intel refused to comment.
On Thursday Bloomberg reported Intel's interest, citing a source saying that the Santa Clara, California chipmaker is mulling a $2 Billion offer. In collaboration with rivals like Qualcomm Inc., Intel is already an investor in SiFive which raised $61 million in a funding round led by Korea's SK Hynix.
Using the RISC-V architecture, SiFive is designing computing cores for customers. While the underlying architecture for these cores is sold, the specific core designs themselves can be open-source.
A purchase of SiFive could give Intel a library of intellectual property that it could use both in its own chips and that it could offer to future customers as it works to build a business by opening up the chip factories for outsiders. Intel has already said it intends to license out computing cores based on its own proprietary x 86 architecture to customers as part of its contract manufacturing business.
Intel would also gain software boozy. SiFive also works on making it easier to program different types of a computer design chip and last year hired Chris Lattner, a prominent silicon Valley computer scientist.
Lattner spearheaded the creation of the Swift programming language for Apple Inc. that has become the primary way developers write apps for iPhones. More recently, Lattner oversaw the programming languages teams for Google Brain and TensorFlow Artificial Intelligence Teams.