vivante2.jpgVivante, a Silicon Valley chip designer, has struck a deal with the Institute of Computing Technology, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, to combine Vivante's graphics chip (GPU) designs with ICT's computer chip (CPU) technology.

The ICT has been doggedly trying to popularise a Made-in-China processor to compete with better-known western rivals for many years.

Based on the core designs of US firm MIPS Technologies, the Loongston family of CPUs — previously called Godson — has been used in everything from supercomputers to set-top boxes, but they have hardly enjoyed a massive take-up and outside of China, the Loongston is virtually unknown.

Rome was not build in a day, nevertheless, so the ICT continues to develop the Loongston family and this latest deal with Vivante is focussed on developing a complete system-on-a-chip (SoC) solution for netbooks — small, low-cost notebook computers designed primarily for surfing the web.

Netbooks represent one of the few areas of the global computer business where demand is growing fast and to make them cheaper than conventional notebooks, manufactures leave out the DVD drives, use smaller screens and fit lower-powered CPUs.

As the CPU and graphics chips together account for a large chunk of the bill-of-materials (BOM) cost of a notebook , the ICT presumably hopes to develop a single-chip design that combines CPU and GPU functions and so will appeal to netbook designers looking to save money and space.

Dr. Weiwu Hu, chief architect of the ICT's CPU division, said:

As we look toward making netbooks both more capable and more accessible, we find Vivante GPUs to be the perfect solution for small size and low power while providing robust, fully featured graphics and fast performance.”

The ICT recently chose to licence the MIPS architecture from MIPS Technologies for “further development and commercialisation” of its Loongston family of processors, which suggests that the ICT, at least, believes the Loongston is now ready for the big time.

Vivante is an interesting company. Headquartered in Sunnyvale, its R&D centre is in Shanghai and several of its executives appear to be Chinese Americans including CEO Wei-Jin Dai and CTO Mike Cai,who is also co-founder.

Vivante Corporation's 2D and 3D GPU cores are designed specifically for embedded applications, such as smartphones and HD home entertainment displays. Vivante is a privately-held company backed by US and Asian investment funds and the corporate venturing arm of Fujitsu.

More on the Loongston AKA Godson in these posts.