While industry analysts have touted IP licensors such as ARM, Imagination and CEVA as possible buyers of processor IP licensor MIPS Technologies, we have explored the possibility that a buyer might come out of China (see Would the Chinese buy MIPS?).
Both academic and private sectors in China have long been familiar with MIPS architecture. Loongson, for example, is a family of general-purpose MIPS64 CPU developed at China’s Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) and Chinese Academy of Sciences. The early implementations of the family, though, did not use four instructions patented by MIPS in order to avoid legal issues.
In recent years, ICT, Loogson Technology and Ingenic Semiconductor licensed MIPS architecture directly from MIPS.
Some in the industry, including The Linley Group’s senior analyst J. Scott Gardner, believe that China's move to define a national CPU architecture specification could be boon to MIPS. “MIPS is a strong candidate,” Gardner noted. Others, however, aren’t so sure. An alternative interpretation for China’s CPU initiative is a sign that Chinese officials perceive the uncertainty around MIPS’s future as a problem.
Although acquiring MIPS and its patent portfolio would be a way for a Chinese company to increase its presence in the semiconductor industry, the biggest hurdle to a deal is cultural since China is new to the IP licensing business model and Chinese companies would no doubt struggle to administer it.
– Peter Clarke