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For most of the last 2.5 decades, the PC CPU industry has been dominated by a single architecture: x86. While the 1990s opened with a number of architectures technically still competing with Intel, by the end of the decade, AMD stood alone against the chip titan. IBM threw in the towel on G5 by the mid-2000s. Intel, it seemed, had won.

But the passage of time has a funny way of reshaping our perceptions of an era. Intel’s near-total victory by the mid-2000s now looks more like a temporary pause than a permanent win — and the CPU market is heating up now in ways we haven’t seen in decades. SiFive is claiming it can build a RISC-V desktop chip in the future. Startups like Nuvia have been acquired by Qualcomm, which plans to launch its own custom silicon by late 2022 – early 2023. Both AMD and Intel have recently debuted new architectures — AMD has extended Zen 3 into servers and mobile, while Intel has launched both Rocket Lake and Ice Lake Server.

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