When China launched its first microprocessor, the Godson 1 in 2002, it wasn’t much of a competitor to what Intel and AMD had to offer. The 64bit Godson 2, released in 2005, still didn’t worry the Western chip makers, but the chip did start to pop up here and there outside of China. Expect to see a lot more of them in the coming years, as the Godson 3 promises to be a chip that can compete head on with the big ones: quad-core, eight core version in the pipeline, and 200 extra instructions aiding in x86 compatibility.
The 64bit chip, planned for 2009, will offer four cores, but it will also include 200 extra instructions aimed at helping people run x86 code on the Godson 3, which is actually a MIPS processor. Whether or not they have an Intel license to do so remains to be seen – Intel wouldn’t comment on the new processor.
The eight core version is even more interesting, as it promises to be a heterogeneous processor like IBM’s Cell. This means that not all eight cores have to be the same, so that you can, say, put a graphics core in the chip as one of the eight cores. Intel and AMD are working on similar technology, with Intel promising to deliver it somewhere next year, not too far off from the Godson 3’s promised arrival.
China develops the Godson processors, also known as Loongson, to gain independence from western chip makers. In addition, the chips are a lot less expensive than what Intel and AMD have to offer, allowing the Chinese government to make low-cost MIPS computers running Linux and other open source software, and distribute them among the Chinese people.