dragon.jpgChina
will soon start volume production of its home-grown “Godson-2E”
microprocessor, but I cannot see Intel losing much sleep over the news.

According to this China Daily
report, the Chinese-designed Godson-2E is comparable in performance to
the Pentium IV chip, which Intel retired this summer, but it costs a
lot less. It is aimed at low-end PCs and devices requiring low power
consumption.

For those who have not been following this saga,
Godson is China's ambitious — critics would say foolhardy — attempt
to prove that China can produce a world-class microprocessor. In China,
Godson is known as the Longxin or dragon chip, but it has hardly set
the semiconductor world alight.

Its first version, the Godson-1,
goes back to 2001. It was developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences
and a government-backed start-up, BLX IC Design, using a design based
on a decade-old chip of US firm MIPS.

In fact the Godson's design was too similar to MIPS' chip and had to be modified to avoid infringing MIPS' patents.

The
Godson-1 was a flop and not even Beijing was prepared to specify it in
government contracts as the clock speed — which determines processor
performance — was too slow. It ended up being used for less demanding
“embedded” applications, such as DVD players and routers.

Undaunted,
the developers went back to the drawing board and in 2005 came up with
a more powerful 64-bit version, the Godson-2. The Godson-2E is the
latest incarnation of this 64-bit design.

Taiwan's UMC, the world's biggest chip foundry, has won the contract to make the Godson-2. China's Menglan Group,
better known for textiles than IT products, is the first customer to be
announced. Its Zhongke-Menglan Electronics Technology subsidiary will
use the chip in a PC that will sell for just 1,500 yuan. It hopes to
produce 100,000 units a year.

More technical details on the PC and the chip in this Electronic Times story.

The
project to develop a “completely Chinese” microprocessor to challenge
US dominance has been heavily promoted and subsidised by central and
local governments as well as universities and government-affiliated
research institutes.

According to the Ministry of Science and
Technology, the successful development of Godson provides not just a
boost for the domestic IT industry but a “strategic victory” for
China's economic and national security.

Perhaps. But the real measure of success will be if a well-known PC manufacturer like Lenovo can be persuaded to use it.

Besides,
I cannot help thinking that there are better ways to stimulate China's
hi-tech sector than wasting five years on a project to develop a
technology that, by western standards, is already obsolete.

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