Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear chips have been some of the most popular solutions for smartwatches running Google’s Wear OS software. And now Qualcomm and Google have announced they’re bringing something new to the ecosystem: RISC-V chips.

Up until now all of Qualcomm’s smartwatch chips have been based on ARM architecture, but now the company says it’s “developing a RISC-V Snapdragon Wear platform that will power next-generation Wear OS solutions.”

That’s about all we know so far, aside from the fact that Qualcomm is working with Google to make sure that the software is compatible with the upcoming chips and that Qualcomm “plans to commercialize the RISC-V based wearable solution globally.”

But it’s an interesting move, as RISC-V architecture has been gaining momentum over the past few years as an alternative to ARM, x86, and other platforms.

RISC-V is an open standard instruction set architecture (ISA) that’s available royalty-free, making it both an economical solution and a versatile one that chip designers can adapt to their own needs.

For the most part RISC-V designs aren’t as powerful as ARM processors yet. So while we’re starting to see them pop up in development boards (and even some laptops and tablets), and even as co-processors in chips where the primary processor uses a different architecture, they’re not exactly common in consumer electronics like laptops or smartphones yet. But wearables could present an interesting test case for Qualcomm and Google, as devices like smartwatches are expected to run a much smaller set of functions than general-purpose phones, tablets, or PCs.

And if things go well, who knows? Maybe we could see higher-performance RISC-V chips from Qualcomm in the future.

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  1. If Google and Qualcomm do it right based on Linux, there will be a historic chance to fight x86 and M$ Windows in the future 😉

    1. Where is Some Guy in this conversation?

      There is already a historic chance to fight M$, it’s called Linux. But Linux adoption on the desktop has remained extremely low given it’s been around for 30 years.

      Let me give you an example. My college requires Windows because we have to use Microsoft exclusive software in our courses, like Excel and doing Excel presentations for example. They specifically warned us against using Mac or Chrome Books because we might not be able to complete our courses with those.

      Yes, it’s my school’s fault for having a contract with Microsoft and it’s stupid that they specifically tailor our classes around M$ software, and it has me really ticked off actually.

      But to think that Microsoft will just go away is silly. Gawd, I want nothing more than that predator of a company to go under, but I don’t think they will.

      Linux is an alternative. But the problem is, if you want to use certain commerical software, like say, Maya, which is an industry standard program, you are stuck with Windows.

      I have Windows 11 on my college laptop cause I have to use M$ software. I took drastic measures to disable automatic updates and Windows Defender. I booted into safe mode and literally deleted the Windows Update and Update Orchestrator services to disable updates. Three days later, Windows repaired it and they appeared again, doing updates in the background against my will.

      This has me hot with anger. I absolutely freaking hate Microsoft and them forcing things on me. The days of Gates and Balmer are gone, when we actually had choice in Windows (think XP and before). Microsoft’s business practices are literally driving me to Linux.

      But back to the point. Microsoft already makes Windows for Arm, no? They can sniff the change in the tides and know when it’s time to embrace another architecture. The real problem is Microsoft’s predatory practices which need to end, and we need to have real choice. That means the industry accepting alternatives like Linux, like Steam has done. And Steam has made great strides in linux gaming and compatibility.

      Believe me. I want nothing more than for Microsoft as a company to die and go under. But they are aggressive as they always have been, and I don’t think that will change any time soon.

      Linux on the desktop will never happen. As long as we have no choice, either follow the industry or be left behind, or in my case, fail your college courses, nothing will ever change.

      Some Guy, care to comment? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

      1. Generally speaking, I agree with you but this is an article about smart watches, a product category I don’t foresee being any less of a data mine than they are now and I never was able to get excited about.
        I don’t anticipate this pact between Qualcomm and Google being safe for losers like me who have seen too much and have the wrong opinions as a result. I’m sure Google is one of the major reasons ARM is a world of locked bootloaders and it’ll be the same for RISC-V.

        I have a lot of thoughts about Microsoft and what might happen if they collapsed but that’s a lot of words on a subject that’s got nothing to do with smartwatches.

      2. In my company, there are several hundred users working on Linux without even knowing what system they use. As for using the office suite, the offline version can be replaced. The 365 version is the saving grace of this software. Opensource has always had a problem when it comes to server architecture (in terms of who should pay for it), but that’s another story. If, for example, LibreOffice released an identical solution to Office 365 (functionally similar), I would immediately install it on the server. Unfortunately, it is now a shell. Dedicated MS applications are a problem, but you can always use virtualization (unfortunately, it is expensive).

  2. Qualcom, the left arm of the American government (as in, spying for them), and everyone knows that Google is untrustworthy…. yeah no thanks.

    1. The issue is that RISC-V has been very promising… yet nothing but promises so far.

      In theory, it’s meant to be open-source which is supposed to make it cheaper, better security, highly customisable, and generally faster/better/efficient.

      In practice, we see the opposite happening often. The proprietary solutions are more efficient, faster, cheaper, and gulp more secure. Not always though.

      With that all said and done, the RISC-V seems to be promising hardware almost as good as ARM. But I reckon they’re much worse. Software is the other half of the equation, and RISC-V is sorely lacking there. So they might promise you the properties of a MediaTek Dimensity 8200 chipset but only end up delivering the properties of a MediaTek Helio P60 chipset instead. Software matters, and it’s why x86/cisc can survive the onslaught from ARM/risc.

      My thinking is that RISC-V will come to market and dominate the 0.2W to 2W segment (mostly microcontrollers), whilst ARM will dominate the 3W to 30W segment (mostly mobile devices), lastly x86 being relegated to 40W to 400W segment in non-portable devices. On the back-end, IBM and their weird Z-chipset architecture will continue to have success in the server and super-computer segments.