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Intel Hardware

A Chinese Challenge To Intel 364

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the bits-and-bytes dept.
motang writes "Chinese government funded Godson-3 a CPU that is developed to bring personal computing to majority of Chinese people by the year 2010. Will this pose any threat to Intel?"
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A Chinese Challenge To Intel

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  • by Ilgaz (86384) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:01PM (#24861291) Homepage

    Speaking from PowerPC 970 MP, Quad G5 Mac which has very good FSB specs and way modern compared to CISC stuff, I can easily say "No".

    Once you don't support x86 instruction set, you aren't a threat to Intel at all.

    It doesn't support, pass. Sorry to sound negative but it is the truth.

    If Intel could be threatened by a non x86 chip, Motorola/IBM/Apple could have achieved it. You see what happened, SJobs and Apple became number 1 Intel fan.

    About performance and watt usage? There is still a huge company named FreeScale you know ;)

  • by harvey the nerd (582806) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:08PM (#24861419)
    Except for servers, hard core gamers and maybe very HDTV, once you get off MS' latest core consuming software, who cares about the last 20% of performance? At 2.5 watts per processor core, of which 1-2 cores should run most individual PCs just fine (f--- Vista), who cares an extra $200-$400 about "Intel inside"? Chinese business, students and academia should do just fine.
  • by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:14PM (#24861511)

    Will it pose a threat to Intel? In the short run absolutely not. It will require a truly massive investment, Intel isn't standing still, and the biggest problem is getting enough engineering talent. Furthermore just producing the chip isn't enough, there have to be boards to plug it into, software written to support the chip/boards, etc. True China is producing a lot of engineers but that by itself is entirely insufficient.

    Long term - who knows? Talent can be developed/bought/hired, secrets learned/stolen, R&D can leapfrog, etc. It will be very difficult to displace Intel but it certainly isn't impossible. Andy Grove [] would probably be the first to admit that.

  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:17PM (#24861555) Journal
    Hardly balanced but China needs the U.S. as bad as the U.S. needs China. This alone will probably keep the peace.

    Why does China need the US again? I must have forgotten.
  • by Otter (3800) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:23PM (#24861641) Journal
    Four or five years ago there was all this buzz about the Chinese Dragon CPU (based on the old Soviet Elbrus) that was going to combine with Red Flag Linux to destroy Wintel. Heard from them recently? The CPU fanboys don't understand that it's not about designing chips; it's about designing chips you can then make.
  • by Vancorps (746090) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:23PM (#24861659)
    The U.S. is China's largest buyer. They wouldn't be where they are without all that money flowing that way. If China were to collapse the U.S. economy which is something they could do right now then they would lose a lot of business devastating their own economy in the process. This nearly happened to the U.S. when Japan's market collapsed.
  • by the_humeister (922869) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:33PM (#24861793)
    Please read the article, page 2:

    But engineers have added 200 additional instructions to Godson-3 to simulate an x86 chip, which allows Godson-3 to run more software, including the Windows operating system. And because the chip architecture is only simulated, there is no need to obtain a license from Intel.

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:36PM (#24861835)

    It's not x86 compatible. It's a MIPS64 clone. According to this, they'll use binary translation and extra instructions to run x86 binaries.

    Somehow I don't think you understand what compatible means. If you plug x86 code into this chip and it works, then it's x86 compatible. The specifics of how all that happens once those instructions flow into the silicon is irrelevant for this particular discussion.

  • Re:Looks cheap. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by exley (221867) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:40PM (#24861889) Homepage

    Also, they are being manufactured by ST Microelectronics, which is a French/Italian company (French + Italian = Swiss?).

    This isn't quite "re-branding" either... The Chinese designed the chips, but since the developers do not have semiconductor fabs of their own (a very expensive investment), they contract out the actual manufacturing. This is very common for companies to do; companies like IBM or TSMC will manufacture chips designed by other companies but it's not considered a re-branding.

  • DEC Chip's Message (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kdawson (3715) (1344097) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:43PM (#24861935)

    Even in real (before Gorbachov) communist era, USSR was shipping 8086 compatible chips as far as I searched.

    Guess what? They care about Windows, DirectX and millions of x86 centric developers. China has always been a realistic country and even Russia couldn't dare to ship a non x86 small chip. Their mainframes were also DEC/S360 etc. clones. There is even a DEC chip saying "Steal from the best" when looked under electron microscope ;)

    Indeed there was: []

  • by dominator (61418) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:46PM (#24861971) Homepage

    Also, there's the 'patriotic' view of this and the fact that the U.S. owes China dearly as a trade partner. Import import import import and export nothing. This would be further propagating that, thus hurting the dollar a tiny bit more.

    Hardly. The US exports $1.15 trillion of goods and services per year. It's true that the US imports $700bln more than it exports. Exports recently rose sharply when the dollar's value was relatively depressed versus European and Asian currencies.

    If China would more aggressively re-circulate the $1.5 trillion in reserves it's holding rather than hoarding dollars, the dollar's value would fall relative to the Yuan (which is being artificially under-valued, which China can due to its massive currency reserves). This would make Chinese imports more expensive and US exports less expensive. But then, China's export-driven economy wouldn't be growing at an insane 11% per year.

    The current trade imbalance is as much China's "fault" as it is the US'. Maybe things aren't so unilaterally bad. There's some truth in the old saying that "if you owe the bank $100, you have a problem. If you owe the bank $1 million, the bank has a problem."

  • by colmore (56499) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @12:51PM (#24862049) Journal

    Off-topic xenophobia here but:

    Is there anyone else who is a little worried about this scenario:

    There's a major decline in the economies of the first world democratic capitalist societies. The global business and banking communities notice that they're making more profit in the authoritarian society, and they apply their influence to see appropriate changes here. The developing world then gets incouraged toward more democratic and humane forms of social organization?

    Is anyone else worried that this is already happening?

    I don't think the Chinese are worse than most people in the world. I just think they have a scary form of government that is becoming more and more influential and not really getting more humane or free as their economy matures. It's dangerous for the world to learn that you can make piles of money without freedom.

  • by Bryansix (761547) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @01:00PM (#24862225) Homepage
    Uhm, because China would collapse immediately without the US buying nearly everything they make.
  • by microbox (704317) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @01:01PM (#24862251)
    Any MIPS or ARM at a given price point will run cooler and faster than x86. All x86 processors are RISC with an instruction converter front end, but that's still enough of a liability to make the first sentence true.

    From what little I know about this... apparently the x86 instruction format is more compressed - reducing the overall code size. There's a tradeoff on getting code to the processor and efficient execution. If you're executing faster than memory is being copied, then you'll benefit from reduced code size. I believe that's the current situation, allowing x86 to hold its own (do better) than any other architecture.

    There's a strange irony to this, because during the 90s, everyone believed that RISC would cream existing x86 chips. What was not accounted for, was that x86 chips would be RISC, with an instruction converter - and the cost of having the convertor is compensated by a more compressed instruction format.

    End game: Netbooks with ARM or MIPS spread upward to desktops and servers with ARM or MIPS. x86 finally fades away of software that doesn't care. All hail.

    Champaign and Cheers! Actually, I like my x86 processor, except I wish they were big-endian. Just a small thing.
  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @01:19PM (#24862563) Journal

    Yes, that has been the way of things for many years, and is one of the major historical sources of US wealth... they trade their money for other countries goods, then the other country uses them as a world currency to trade for oil with a third party country.

    Thing is, they're all bad cheques. It's like if I paid the butcher with a bad cheque and took his meat, then he paid the baker with my cheque, then he paid the candlestick maker with my cheque. The candlestick maker, he put it in his wall safe for a rainy day.

    It's great for me, I get all my shit for free. And as long as no one tries to cash the cheques I write, no one notices that I'm ripping everyone off.

    Iraq started breaking stride with the other oil producing nations and allowing Euros to be traded instead of US Dollars. Then they got invaded, and that put a stop to that.

    I wonder if the US has the military capacity to stop a second nation from breaking stride? I don't think so, but we'll see.

  • by kabocox (199019) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @01:21PM (#24862587)

    Transmeta has tried, Godson has already tried, and both have yet to make a dent. It's just another knockoff that will not take off.
    Like a lot of things from China, reliability will be suspect, not to mention any willful patent infringement.

    Unlike either of those two, they don't have the backing of a government will over a billion people in it. If they only make a CPU that's an ARM clone to run their cell phones and something that is slightly more robust than a Barbie PC, then I'd call it success if they manage to rollout a few hundred million of them to the chinese public.

    Intel will lose if they can't make hyper super cheap computers for China. I don't know if the chinese can do that, but they've got more incentive to do it than intel does. Intel can just play in their current market while these unknown cheap chinese folks come out of now where and it 10, 20, 30 years have e $1-5 chip that is just as fast as Intel's latest.

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @01:25PM (#24862669)

    "If China were to collapse the U.S. economy which is something they could do right now "

    How, exactly? I've heard this before, but never a proper explanation.

    Sell all their US bonds? To whom?
    Stop selling shit to us? That would suck, but I'm sure all the other Asian nations would be right on top of picking up the slack.

    Another thing is that some of the scenarios would be so internally destructive that it reminds me of the Looney Tunes where Daffy, desperate to steal the show from Bugs, blows himself up. When Bugs compliments him, he says "Yeah, yeah - but I can only do it once" as he is floating up to heaven.

    Sure, China *could* destroy the US economy, but at a cost of wiping themselves out. If the US collapses and stops buying Chinese goods, that would idle millions of factory workers, who are NOT going to want to go back to the farms from whence they came. hey weren't real happy when the Beijing factories were idled for 2 weeks for the Olympics - picture that anger, multiplied by it happening all over the country and for an indefinite time.

  • by Wildclaw (15718) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @01:27PM (#24862701)

    The U.S. is China's largest buyer. They wouldn't be where they are without all that money flowing that way. If China were to collapse the U.S. economy which is something they could do right now then they would lose a lot of business devastating their own economy

    This is exactly why it is bad to build economies around debt. You get artificial restrictions in the economy that leads to problems (recessions) when you can't find someone willing to get endebted.

    And when you actually find people people willing to get endebted the economy will roll on for a while until it reaches its limit and it again isn't possible to find people willing to get endebted.

    Of course, the ones making the big money over time on this is bankers, investors and others that deal in debt. For the rest of society it is just another thing that causes instability and inefficency. Of course, coming up with a better system that works in practice isn't an easy task, and implementing it is even harder.

  • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @01:49PM (#24863047) Journal

    It's dangerous for the world to learn that you can make piles of money without freedom.

    If you are worried about that then just look at the US. Considerable reductions in freedoms, particularly for us foreigners some of whom come to trade, at the same time as a major economic decline. That should persuade people otherwise.

  • Re:Whew... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thammoud (193905) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @02:28PM (#24863745)

    IBM sold the Thinkpad to a Chinese company. Thinkpads are still extremely popular.

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @02:30PM (#24863757)

    "by trading them in on the Foreign Exchange Market for Euro's (or an other currency) on a large scale, to manipulate the value of the Dollar."

    Again, someone has to be willing to trade them Euros for the Dollars. Who would buy such huge sums of dollars to help tank the US economy and thereby hurt themselves? Remember, the US mortgage crisis caused FOREIGN banks to collapse.

    And even if they did find buyers, one assumes they would be trying to depress the value of the dollar. Why would they? The dollar has been tanking already and the Chinese are feeling the pain in the form of less trade and higher prices for oil - do you think they would want MORE of that?

  • by HiThere (15173) <{ten.knilhtrae} {ta} {nsxihselrahc}> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @03:06PM (#24864295)

    You know, I heard that precise same argument around 1970 ... only that time it was about Japan. "All they can do is copy.", "They can make anything out of used beer cans...but all they make is cheap shit".

    How do you feel about Japan these days?
    Which country is doing the most in robotics?

    (P.S.: I'm not certain that the answer to the second question is Japan, but they're definitely one of the top three.)

  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @03:27PM (#24864633) Homepage

    Whether that is a bad idea depends on the opportunity cost (and not in U.S. dollars). China gets a hell of a lot more out of trade than mere dollars.

    The arabs trade oil for dollars, they're not interested in anything else, and therefore, if oil gets replaced (which will obviously happen), they're up on niagara falls without a paddle and with some ayatollahs and other muslim clergy having spent years mining the bottom of the falls.

    China is building an internal economy, with tons upon tons of different stuff, that will provide them with options in the future.

    The problem is that when you rely upon currency controls to make ones own products cheaper it tends to cause other problems. Such as minor moves in the value of the Yuan making huge impacts in employment and for the producers in nations to which the items are being sold getting angry at being cheated.

    These "impacts" are only huge in absolute numbers, otherwise they're tiny. But yes 1000 people laid off is a lot. Compared to 900 million jobless (what would happen if the US divests from China), it's a spec of dust in the wind.

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @03:43PM (#24864847)

    American money is like Air Miles.

    Air miles that you can use to buy oil. Oil is still traded in dollars.

    And while I'm sure many Euros are used to build factories in China, I'd bet that most factories are still bought with dollars.

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @03:58PM (#24865031) Journal

    Actually there's a thing that both CPU and OS fanboys fail to understand: it's the apps that matter, silly. The hardware and even OS are just a necessary evil to run that software.

    The problem is having _software_ for it which doesn't suck, covers enough of the problem space, etc.

    The Dragon CPU doesn't have an Intel-compatible ISA, so it doesn't automatically inherit all the Intel-only apps. It's based on the (unlicensed) Mips III ISA. The lack of a license is also why they don't advertise it as such.

    But the cavalier attitude to IP is also what will bite them in the arse. When both are free as in, you can get them burned on a blank for (next to nothing), there isn't all that much reason to go with Linux ports instead of buying Windows and Office. Both do the same thing, but one of them has all the years of FUD behind it, and apparent incentives like "but everyone else uses Word and Excel, what if they send me something that doesn't work well in OOo?" or "but maybe if I learn to use Word, I can find a better job where they use that" or "but will I be able to play the latest pirated games on that?" (Even the "run them in Wine" doesn't exactly work on a non-intel architecture, because, as the recursive acronym goes, "Wine Is Not an Emulator.")

    I've been saying it for a long time: piracy isn't some grand revenge against the big foreign corporations. Piracy only serves to kill the cheaper, but good enough, alternatives. If the choice were "do I buy AutoCAD for the equivalent of 6 years of Chinese average wage, or get a local alternative for 1% of that" (or even a F/OSS one) the choice might be very different than when both are free (as in stolen beer;) The big foreign corporation, regardless of what BSA tells you, hasn't actually lost anything there. That Chinese kid making some graphics for a mod wouldn't have paid thousands of dollars on AutoCAD, because he doesn't have those thousands of dollars anyway. But he might have been more interested in some alternatives which may have less features, but are cheap and local, or outright free. Piracy only serves to kill those possible alternatives.

    And I'm not saying that as a personal rant against piracy, but because I believe that it's one reason why the Dragon will be stillborn no matter how good the silicon is. When the question comes, "but does this local Dragon computer run all that new pirated software?", the Dragon loses anyway.

    And China has already had a similar experiment with their own DVD-alternative. Regardess of what other merits or disadvantages it may have, it just can't compete with something which plays all those thousands of pirated Hollywood DVDs. When you don't pay the DVD license "tax" anyway because you pirate those movies (or buy them from a counterfeiter which doesn't), the lack of those royalties on the local brewed codec becomes irrelevant.

  • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash.p10link@net> on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @05:41PM (#24866295) Homepage

    As a brit I would much rather the US had the ability to spy on us through such backdoors than the chineese had that ability.

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @06:43PM (#24867055) Journal

    Add to that the attitude of the Chinese to keep everything in their own hands and to build everything they think they need but don't have yet, and you have a winner for Open Source. There is only one problem: get them to open up their code. I have the feeling they won't do that when real breakthroughs are made.

    You mean the same Chinese which (or at least a majority of) prefer the foreign DVD format to the home-grown codec, just because there's an endless supply of pirated/counterfeit Hollywood movies?

    If in China all the Loongson boxes come preloaded with Red Flag Linux, the population there will become used to that. Remember: a lot of them haven't used a PC that often, and certainly not in their own homes.

    You mean the same which hadn't used a DVD before, but didn't need much to decide they'd rather have a huge supply of foreign movies, than the patriotic/revisionist-history crap their government pumps out? Sorry, it never works the way you describe, unless you can _really_ keep the tightest possible fist on the market and control what everyone uses. And they can't. Nobody really can, but in China it doesn't look like they even try too hard.

    On the whole, I'm sorry, but while the attitude of the government might be what you describe, I haven't seen any information which points that-a-way for the common man. The average chinese probably couldn't give a crap about all that.

    And I certainly haven't heard of any major Linux or F/OSS contributions from that part of the world. On the contrary, I hear about mass-piracy of Windows stuff. So if they're that fond of Linux and home-grown stuff, they sure know how to keep that a secret.

    So basically don't be blindsided by some ideal about exotic oriental wise people. They're just people like you and me and your neighbours. Between what works, and what's a good stick-it-to-the-corporate-oppressors, everything-by-the-people-for-the-people chest thumping, I expect 99% of them to choose the former. Same as here. Even if their government would rather they focus on the latter, instead of on government failures. In fact, probably partially _because_ the government would rather they do the latter.

  • by mollymoo (202721) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @07:58PM (#24867837) Journal

    No, they cannot "collapse our economy" because the second they started selling ouer debt it would cause a run, making the debt they own worthless.

    Has it never occurred to you that that may be a price they are willing to pay?

  • by ahfoo (223186) on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @09:08PM (#24868437) Journal

    So as a quick answer to your question, no TSMC does not manufacture anything in North America. They do most everything in XinZhu Science Park in the center of Taiwan.

    As to the Godson. This was an intriguing story about eight years ago but at this point it's quite literally academic. The project is maintained as a pet research project to encourage students to learn processor design, but it is in no way a threat to Intel or AMD or Nvidia or Via or even any of the dozens if not hundreds of ARM 11 microprocessor vendors. The reason this is so is simple --money.

    Processor intellectual property has been almost completely worthless for years now. Look at the netbook phenomena with Intel's Atom platform and the rise of the ARM 11 systems with Ghz clock speeds and insanely frugal power consumption that go into smart phones and media players as well as netbooks. These are devices that are going to be mass-market retailed in the low hundreds of dollars and quickly heading for sub one hundred dollar territory. It's a race to the bottom. There's not much room for processor technology to pay off at those price points after you pay for the LCD, the Li+ battery, the wireless radios, the chip fabrication and assembly. It doesn't matter if it's China, Russia, Venezuela, India, Canada or France. Developing a new CPU design at this point is first and foremost an exercise in bragging rights that will threaten none of the existing players who basically give up the circuit designs for a few pennies per unit.

  • by longacre (1090157) * on Wednesday September 03, 2008 @10:37PM (#24869187) Homepage

    One of Intel's people was mentioned in the article as being very interested when details of the chip are released, because he's curious how exactly they're virtualizing the x86 instruction set without a license.

    Because they can. If Intel starts asking too many questions like that, palates full of legit chips enroute to desktop factories in China might start being denied entry to Chinese ports and airports, or might just disappear completely.

The tree of research must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of bean counters. -- Alan Kay