China's chip industry on the up

China is expected to show off technology which is close to western chipmakers by next year.

According to CIO, early next year we will see the release of the 8-core Godson processor. The chip has been made by Loongson Technology, partly funded by the Chinese Academy of Science.

The chip itself is not much to write home about. The Godson-3B1500 will have a clock speed of 1.35GHz, and provide 172.8 gigaflops of performance while drawing 40 watts. But it will show that China is fast catching up with the main western chip makers after just over a decade of work.

Chips based on 64-bit Godson CPU designs have been used since 2008 in low-power laptops like the Lemote netbook and also the Shenwei supercomputer, which was unveiled last year.

The Godson-3B1500 uses the 32-nanometer process and has 1.14 billion transistors which is twice what China was making a year ago.

Godson uses an entirely different design from ARM and x86 CPUs. They use a MIPS64 CPU instruction set from chip designer MIPS, which is being acquired by Imagination Technologies. It cannot manage Windows and runs on Linux.

But the Chinese plan is to make sure that the country is not dependent on any outside sources. This will give it some clout when it comes to making gear for the local market. From there it would be easy to provide hardware for developing countries. Which is exactly where Intel, AMD and ARM want to push.

Having consulted our tarot cards, this sort of move in producing cheap products – which are free from any IP problems – could give the chip-making status quo some real headaches in a few years. It could really harm AMD in particular, as the only way to compete is to stay ahead in terms of R&D and new products, which is something AMD is finding difficult at the moment.