"Open-source licensing of 32-bit processor cores is gaining
ground, as the European Space Agency recently made available its
Leon-1 CPU core. Though the core has yet to be fully tested in
hardware, its VHDL source code has been downloaded at least 150
times since Feb. 17 when the debugged core went up on the agency's
"Some observers suggest that the free availability of Leon-1
and of another 32-bit architecture, OpenRISC 1000, could undermine
commercial core licensors like ARM Ltd., MIPS Technologies and Sun
Microsystems. Indeed, Leon's designer, Jiri Gaisler, said he's
already been approached by "a very big mobile phone company"
looking to cut processor costs. He would not name the
"The Sparc architecture is an IEEE standard so it is an open
standard. There are no limitations on designing around it," said
Gaisler. "However the trademark belongs to Sparc International Inc.
We can't call Leon a Sparc but we can call it Sparc-compatible. I
have been in touch with Sparc International regarding the licensing
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