Company puts Android on laptop with China-backed chips

Lemote Technology is optimizing Android for a netbook with China's Loongson chips

A Chinese company is tweaking Google’s Android operating system to run on a laptop using homegrown Chinese microprocessors, which are backed by the government.

The move by Lemote Technology, based in China's Jiangsu province, is the first sign of interest in Android among backers of China's Loongson chips, which also go by the name Godson.

Google said in January it planned to stop censoring results on its China-based search engine, a move that would defy Chinese regulations and that raised concerns about potential harm to Android's reception in China. But Lemote's work is the latest sign of continued interest in Android by Chinese tech companies -- including some linked to the Chinese government.

Lemote already offers a demo version of Android that users can download for the YeeLoong8089 netbook, a mini-laptop with an 8.9 inch screen, an employee at the company said Wednesday. Lemote is now working on an optimized version of the OS that it hopes to release for the same netbook soon, the employee said.

Lemote was founded in 2006 with backing from investors including a branch of the state-controlled Chinese Academy of Sciences, which developed the Loongson chip line. The CPU line includes low-end chips as well as high-end chips planned to be used in a Chinese supercomputer.

Like other government projects in areas such as mobile communications, the Loongson chips are part of a long-term bid to boost domestic innovation and reduce China's reliance on foreign technology.

Lemote declined to comment on whether it would start selling its netbook with Android pre-loaded, and on any other plans to use the OS. Google's row with the government has had no effect on Lemote's work with Android since the OS is open-source software, the Lemote employee said.

Other computer makers including Hewlett-Packard and Taiwan's Acer and have also announced laptops running Android.

The Lemote netbook, which has an 800MHz Loongson processor, also adds to the number of devices running Android on MIPS chip architecture. Loongson chips' use of the MIPS instruction set puts them apart from the x86 processors made by giants like Intel. It means the chips cannot run mainstream programs like Windows made for x86 processors.

But MIPS Technologies last year said it had ported Android to the MIPS architecture and began promoting its use, largely on embedded devices such as home media players.

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Owen Fletcher

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