Qualcomm is working with Google to develop a RISC-V platform that can power Wear OS devices. RISC-V is an open standard instruction set architecture (ISA), which Arm describes as "part of the abstract model of a computer that defines how the CPU is controlled by the software." Since it's open standard, it could lead to open-source chip designs and could lower the costs for companies that want to build their own chips. That means more companies entering the industry and more devices on the market, which could foster innovation and give rise to more affordable options.
Google came out in support of RISC-V earlier this year in hopes that it could compete on equal footing with Arm one day. However, the technology still has a long way to go to reach that status. According to Ars Technica, Qualcomm's could be the first mass-market RISC-V Android chip ever, if all goes according to plan. As the publication notes, a RISC-V platform represents a big threat to Arm, whose CPU architecture dominates the smartphone industry. Things had been pretty unsteady for Arm over the past couple of years, with its parent company Softbank trying to sell it to NVIDIA until regulators stepped in and prevented the acquisition from happening. The company ended up registering for a US IPO instead and raised $4.87 billion in September.
In its announcement, the chipmaker said its RISC-V Snapdragon Wear platform will power the next generation of Wear OS devices. It's planning to commercialize the technology for wearable products meant for global release, but it doesn't have a launch date yet. Qualcomm said it has already started the new chip's development and will be sharing more information about its timeline at a later date.