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Backers of Open-Source Chips Launch Startup – WSJ.

A group of university researchers recently attracted attention by applying principles of open-source software to computer chips. Now they’re turning the concept into a company.

A San Francisco-based startup called SiFive on Monday is announcing plans to develop and sell chips based on a technology called RISC-V. The tech includes a set of instructions that define the functions of a microprocessor, which can serve as a starting point for designing a chip.

RISC-V can be used without charge and freely modified, similar to the way open-source programs like Linux are now used by many companies. Its backers see it is an antidote to stiff development costs and other market forces that have deterred chip designers and contributed to the entrenched positions of players like Intel Corp. and ARM HoldingsPLC.

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From their site:

Open source has proven its technical and business benefits to the software world. Why hasn’t it done the same yet for semiconductors and hardware?