updated 05:40 pm EDT, Fri April 27, 2012
Govt could limit acceptable architectures
Chinese government officials are in the process of attempting to define a national processor architecture standard. If successful, the standard, which EE Times contends might emerge in the next few months, could dramatically alter computing in the world's largest country, and the ripple effects could change the way international companies do business in China.
Officials of China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology convened the first meeting of the China National Instruction Set Architecture in March, and were joined by representatives from about 20 Chinese organizations. Huawei, ZTE, and multiple Chinese electronics manufacturers were represented at the meeting, as well as a number of academic groups.
Among the chief topics of discussion at the meeting were the possible development of an instruction set architecture (ISA) standard particular to the Chinese nation. The Chinese government is thought to be considering limiting the dispersal of national funds only to those projects based on such a standard. As China is a communist country, government funding plays a massive role in virtually every sector of its economy; thus agreement on and implementation of a new ISA standard would have repercussions throughout the Chinese economy. With the consumer sector of China's economy an increasingly attractive target for international corporations, any new standards for computing could have a sizable ripple effect throughout the global electronics industry.
While the development of a new Chinese ISA standard is still in the proposal stage, there are some indications of possible routes the government could take. One possibility is to purchase struggling chipmaker MIPS, as China already has cores based on MIPS designs. Alternately, the Chinese government could partner with one of the other existing chip designers in developing a new standard or expanding on an existing one. China could also break from the pack and develop its own new architecture, though this could prove a daunting task, as such a standard could very well be obsolete before its release.
Long the target of accusations of intellectual property theft, China has in recent years been working to develop a homegrown IP portfolio to put it on equal standing with the West. Recently, this drive has resulted in the development of its own BeiDou GPS mapping system, and the development of a new ISA could be the centerpiece in a portfolio the Chinese government hopes would greatly reduce the nation's dependence on Western technologies.