SHANGHAI, China A Chinese company hopes to produce a low-cost PC powered by the locally designed Godson CPU, which it will sell to schools and local governments starting in October.
ZhongKe Menglan Electronics Technology Co., Ltd. will begin with a trial run of several thousand units, which is expected to initially sell for bwtween $175 and $200 if market reaction is positive. It would then move to volume production. The ultimate goal is sell the PCs for as low as $125.
The PC will include a Godson CPU running at 800 MHz to 1GHz, with 256 Mbytes of DDR DRAM, a 40- to 60-Gbyte hard drive and will run on Linux. It will resemble a set-top box, 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 32-bit, 266-MHz microprocessor. In early 2005, BLX released a 64-bit version of the CPU, running at 500 MHz, 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 64-bit 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.