San Jose (CA) - It's time for US microprocessor developers to pay attention to China not only as target market but also as potential competitor, market research firm Instat says. While Godson 2 isn't China processor debut, it could be the first chip to reach global markets.
Sometimes, copying existing successful products may prove to be much more efficient to reach a certain goal rather than trying to reinvent. In fact, in many industries it is common practice to improve or even create one's own product. And, according to a report released by Instat analyst Tom Halfhill, the microprocessor industry could see such a trend emerging in China - to help the country to quickly catch up with US-based companies.
Halfhill said that the "Godson 2", a 64-bit chip that went into production in the second quarter of this year, demonstrates that "China is capable of designing world-class microprocessors." However the chip appears to be what many may call an entirely new design, as the Godson 2 is 95-percent MIPS compatible and very similar to the MIPS R10000, which was introduced in 1995. According to Halfhill, the legal situation between the Godson 2 and the R10000 is unclear as the Chinese chip leaves out certain instructions patented by MIPS. But the analyst said that MIPS is especially concerned about the fact that "the Chinese are referring to the Godson 2 as MIPS-like."
At this time, the Godson 2 looks like it is no threat to leading processor manufacturers. The chip is more sophisticated as the Godson 1 that debuted in 2002, but the processor trails current processors by at least two generations, Halfhill said. While current CPUs are built in 90 nm and soon move into 65 nm processes, the Godson 2 is manufactured in 180 nm. "Processor manufacturing is an eluding target, but China could catch up with leading manufacturers within five years," Halfhill said. "There is no reason to be concerned about the processor right now, but it is certainly a trend to keep an eye on."
Godson 2 availability is currently limited to China, but the manufacturer, BLX IC Design, aims for markets outside the US. The chip targets embedded applications such as DVD players. According to Halfhill, the Godson 2 lays the foundation for China's microprocessor industry: "China's "ambition to make its own microprocessors will affect microprocessor vendors all over the world," he said.