ZHUHAI, China – When I sat down with Actions Semiconductor CEO Zhenyu Zhou last week, I learned that MIPS’ sales team in China was fired en masse recently.
Now that Imagination Technologies owns MIPS, we probably shouldn’t be surprised at the news. In retrospect, it was downright predictable.
And yet, the disappearance of the MIPS sales team in China is somewhat alarming, especially to the engineering community in China.
For one thing, MIPS has made inroads in diversified Chinese markets--ranging from portable audio players to tablets, servers and even supercomputers. (See Imagination's response here.)
Also, the Chinese government’s support for MIPS dates back to the early 2000s. The Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) at the Chinese Academy of Sciences independently developed “MIPS-like” internal microarchitecture of its Loongson (whose academic name is Godson) instruction set.
Historically, Beijing is also known for having funded MIPS chips for handsets, PCs, servers and supercomputers.
By 2009, ICT formally licensed the MIPS32 and MIPS64 architectures directly from MIPS Technologies. In August 2011, so did Loongson Technology Corp. Ltd.--for continued development of MIPS-based CPU cores.
MIPS has been pitched in recent years as an alternative to ARM--especially to China fables companies developing consumer chips. It remains to be seen whether the recent change in MIPS’ ownership will alter the landscape in China.
Actions Semiconductor is a licensee of both MIPS and ARM. The company, in fact, developed its first-generation SoC for media tablets based on MIPS. In a recent interview with EE Times, however, Zhou stressed that while the company plans to continue to use MIPS for its “matured” portable music and video player chips, Actions is switching completely to ARM for the tablet market.