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China to Develop Indigenous Microprocessors

A leading Chinese computing technology expert said in Beijing on Wednesday that his team would not slow down their pace in developing China's own microprocessors despite the recent AMD technological licensing of its X86 microprocessor to a Chinese partner.

Li Guojie, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) Institute of Computing Technology, said in an interview with Xinhua that research and development of China's own multi-use microprocessors have already become a "will of the state" after getting a go-ahead from the country's top decision-makers.

"A single technological transfer would hardly affect the government's overall strategy in developing the information technology," said Li, who is also a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

According to a press release on the AMD website, the US-based company signed an agreement on October 24 with China's Ministry of Science and Technology and Peking University to license AMD X86 microprocessor design technology, which will enable Chinese development of low-power and embedded computer solutions for consumer and commercial markets.

In the past two years, AMD lobbied the US government for nodding the hi-tech transfer, which is always under a strict control regime for national security considerations.

In addition to the technological transfer, AMD agreed to set upits new Greater China Headquarters in the Zhongguancun Science Park in northwest Beijing.

"The AMD license is no surprise to us," Li said. "This technological transfer would not pose any threat to our research and development on Chinese microprocessors, or the Longxin products."

In September 2002, Li led his CAS research team developed China's first ever microprocessor, Longxin I. In April, they invented the upgraded Longxin II, which is said to be on a par with Intel's Pentium III in terms of technical performance.

Li said that the Ministry of Science and Technology has decided to invest 75 million yuan (US$9.1 million) for the Longxin project in the coming two to three years. Two improved versions of the Longxin II will come out very soon, Li said.

The microprocessor design technology licensed to the Beijing University is mainly for research reference as well as training courses. AMD did not sign any form of cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry for commercializing and producing such X86 microprocessors.

In line with the Cross License Agreement between AMD and Intel,AMD could not on its own license production and sales of X86 microprocessors to Chinese companies. The production line must exist only in companies held by AMD. But AMD shows little interestin the near future in such a big investment in China, with each production line costing roughly US$ 1 billion.

"Anyway, Chinese hardware and software designers could greatly benefit from the hi-tech license," said Li, adding that China has gained a higher platform for microprocessor designing.

"However, we can't expect a single transfer like this would result in a great leap forward in this field," Li warned.

"We still need to blaze the trail with our own efforts," he said.

Microprocessors could be used in embedded applications, personal computers and super servers.

Li targeted his Longxin series at both embedded application and servers.

"In the past three decades, AMD worked really hard to break the monopoly of Intel on microprocessor technology," Li said. "We need to learn from AMD to break the monopoly of foreign IT giants."
 (Xinhua News Agency November 3, 2005)

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