Intel lauds Chinese CPU development

An Intel executive lauded the growing semiconductor design skills in China that produced the Godson-2 CPU.

The latest CPU (central processing unit) developed in China, the Godson-2, won't compete with offerings by Intel anytime soon, but the engineering leaps required to create the chip show a fast uptake in design prowess, an Intel executive said Tuesday.

The Godson-2 is a 64-bit microprocessor that runs at a clock speed of up to 500MHz, far more advanced than its predecessor, the Godson-1, a 32-bit chip introduced in 2002 that ran at 266MHz.

"If you look at the slope, it's scary," said Shekhar Borkar, director of Intel's microprocessor technology lab, on the sidelines of a press conference at the Intel Developer Forum in Taipei. The team of researchers working on the Godson line of chips, from the Institute of Computing Technology (ICT), part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, improved their chip development skills rapidly, he said.

Intel views the Chinese CPU in a positive light, as a sign of China's embrace of technology, not as competition, Borkar said.

"Intel is encouraging China to develop the chip, to develop the ecosystem," he said.

The chips are based on what ICT has described as a "MIPS-like" instruction set, a different build than the x86 architecture developed by Intel. The Godson can work with software and components developed around the CPU architecture created by MIPS Technologies, a U.S. company, while Intel CPUs work with software and components designed to work with the x86 architecture, such as the Windows OS.

Intel has been far less supportive of entrants into the CPU business in the past. The wold's largest chip maker has knocked some of the biggest names in the semiconductor industry out of the PC processor market, including Texas Instruments, and maintains vigilance against newcomers to the market.

But Godson-2 is aimed at other markets like set-top boxes, according to its developers, not necessarily the PC market. If it were in a low cost PC, for example, it wouldn't be able to run Windows, but it could run a Linux OS developed for its architecture.

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Dan Nystedt

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