MIPS Technologies, the company that had been synonymous with the MIPS processor architecture, is now shifting its business model. Instead of designing MIPS chips, the company will be developing processors based on RISC-V architecture.
It’s been a long road for MIPS. The company was founded in 1984 and the first MIPS (Microprocessor without Interlocked Pipelined Stages) instruction set was launched a year later. Like ARM Holdings, MIPS Technologies licensed its chip designs to other companies rather than manufacturing and selling its own chips.
Some early MIPS processors were used in workstation and server computers, with later chips finding their way into personal computers including desktops and laptops. Some game consoles including the Nintendo 64, PlayStation, PS2, and PlayStation Portable also used MIPS processors.
But in recent years MIPS designs have been less popular, with x86 and ARM architecture dominating the PC, server, mobile and entertainment spaces. MIPS Technologies the company changed hands several times over the past decade. Imagination Technologies bought the company in 2013, only to sell it to Wave Computing in 2018.
Wave filed for bankruptcy last year, and eleven months later the company announced the transition from designing and licensing MIPS chips to producing and selling processors based on RISC-V designs as part of the announcement that Wave and MIPS Technologies are emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
While the company is calling its new designs “8th generation architecture,” the move will be a major transition with any new MIPS-branded chip designs based on the open, royalty-free RISC-V architecture rather than the MIPS architecture that the company had designed and owned.
According to a report from Electronic Engineering Journal, it’s likely that the new MIPS will continue to honor pre-existing licensing agreements, but it’s unclear what level of support the company will offer for older MIPS-based chip designs.