China is about to put on sale its own computers running with its own processor and Linux. This news will not bring unalloyed delight to Intel and Microsoft.
Wu Shaogang, a manager from manufacturer Lemote Technology has said the first batch of 80 computers powered by home-grown Chinese CPUs are undergoing user tests. This means the home-made chip, Godson II E, is out of the lab and moving into at least a small commercial operation followed by the big time.
Lemote, which is based in Changshu in China’s Jiangsu Province, hopes to get a thousand PCs out on to the market in China before the Chinese New Year. Which means that we will see them in the rest of the world before the end of the year.
The PCs will use Linux, have a 40-gigabyte hard drive and 256 megs of memory. Price in China will be RMB1,599 ($200) to which you have to add a monitor and a keyboard. Probably come in at around $250 in the first instance.
So it is not that much less expensive than a standard PC. But it is made in China, uses Linux, is more that adequately specced and will undoubtedly find a market.
The chip which powers it, Godson II E was developed by the Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. China started CPU research and development in 2001, and the first chip, Godson I, came out in September 2002. Since when there have been three more generations of the Godson — Godson II B, Godson II C and Godson II E. The latter models tripled the computing speed of the previous ones.
This is all part of China’s 863 Program and Knowledge Innovation Project which started back in 1986 and is aimed to boost the development of science and technology in China.
Does this mean we will see a rash of computers from China coming on sale? In fact, this has been the case for a long time. It is just they had different labels: IBM (now Lenovo), Dell, Hewlett-Packard and the rest. The only differences were that these were badged machines that ran an Intel chip and Microsoft Windows.
Now the Chinese computers can run a chip made in China and operate with Linux. And that is a wondrous revolution.