RISC-V is not a CPU. It’s a specification for an ISA (Instruction Set Architecture). An instruction set describes how software communicates with the underlying computational hardware. x86 is the ISA for processors by Intel and AMD. ARMv8 is the ISA for the latest and phones and tablets, and now for Apple’s latest machines.
Unlike ARM and x86, however, RISC-V is open source. That means anyone can build a processor that supports RISC V. It also means that the RISC V instruction set is easy to modify and add to.
Why is RISV so Important?
RISC-V provides a single software ecosystem and supports many different processor vendors. This setup forces the CPU makers to compete with each other by building the best processor for different applications.
In a RISC V future, consumers wouldn’t have to settle for ‘good enough’, and instead they will be able to choose ‘just right.’ Also, RISC V adoption would significantly accelerate competition in the embedded processor space.
A Level Playing Field
If a company wants to make a RISC V processor, they won’t have to also build an expensive ecosystem to go along with that. The effective separation of that financial burden from the processor design means that if RISC V takes off, we will see a lot of interesting and innovative solutions by many different vendors.