A small, non-commercial, organisation will, in the next few days, release the blueprints for building a 32-bit processor core on the Internet, according to press reports.
The project is modelled on open source software development and is aimed at reforming the way microprocessor technology is currently developed by commercial IP (Intellectual Property) core licensors.
OpenCores is a US organisation comprised of computer scientists and engineers who have ideals for the designing of microprocessors that are comparable to those behind the creation of open source software.
A statement on the OpenCores Web site reads, "We believe that development of chip designs should be done in an open environment, where cooperation and communication between designers (and users) results in better designs for everyone. Sources of IP cores should be available to everyone at anytime, and everyone is welcome to participate in the development."
Engineers can download documentation for constructing an "OpenRISC 1000" core over the Internet free of charge, and can then set about constructing their own microprocessor around it.
The process of developing a microprocessor is, however, very different from that of developing software, as commercial IP core licensor ARM is keen to point out.
"We don't see this as a major threat," says Tudor Brown, chief technology officer with ARM. "Anyone can design a microprocessor core, really. This group claims to be basing it on the GNU idea and that's all very well, but to manufacture hardware, you need a huge investment. To base a product on it, the one thing you need is it to be stable."