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China preps low-cost PC for local market

Posted: 07 Sep 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ZhongKe Menglan Electronic Techonology? Goldson CPU? low-cost PC? Cai Yan?

A Chinese company hopes to manufacture a low-cost PC that it will sell to schools and local governments starting in October.

ZhongKe Menglan Electronics Technology Co. Ltd will begin a trial run of several thousand units, which is expected to initially sell for between $175 and $200. It would then move to volume production. The ultimate goal is sell the PCs for as low as $125.

The PC will include a locally-designed Godson CPU running at 800MHz to 1GHz, with 256Mbytes of DDR DRAM, a 40-60Gbyte hard drive and will run on Linux. It will resemble a STB, and include four USB slots, a 10/100Mbit LAN and a VGA port for a monitor.

In 2002, government-backed BLX IC Design Corp. launched the Godson-1, a 32bit, 266MHz microprocessor. In early 2005, BLX released a 64bit version of the CPU, running at 500MHz that they claim matches the performance of the Pentium 3. It has never been able to get traction in the market, however, despite claiming to have rallied local industry support around its architecture that extended to 60 companies, including Haier, a major manufacturer of appliances and consumer electronics.

It has also run into allegations of IP infringement because the Godson architecture closely resembles the MIPS architecture from MIPS Technologies Inc. and is about 95 percent MIPS-compatible. In particular the Godson-2 processor is similar to the MIPS R10000, introduced in 1995, according to market researcher In-Stat. BLX has denied this.

The company building the low-cost PCs is based in Shanghai's neighboring Jiangsu Province and is supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which also helped design the Godson. Because of the lower performance of its predecessor, the Godson chip has mostly been used in less demanding embedded applications, such as DVD players and routers, said Wu Shaogang, head of the technology department at ZhongKe. But the latest version of the 64bit chip will help Godson break into low-end PC platformsit will also be used in a Chinese supercomputer in 2008, Wu said.

For now, the company has orders for 2,000 PCs from local middle and high schools. Wu added some other orders, for as many as 10,000 PCs, are under negotiation for use in rural projects in Southeast Asia.

- Cai Yan
EE Times

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