Chip firm Loongson aiming high but has push to build ecosystem come too late?

By Xiao Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/27 0:08:40

While attention was focused on China's launch of its first domestically built aircraft carrier, the country's long-held ambition to become a world power in chip making has been garnering fewer headlines.

China was buzzing with excitement on Wednesday as its first homemade aircraft carrier was launched at a shipyard in Dalian, Liaoning Province. The thrill of watching the huge ship easing into the sea seems to have overwhelmed the more trivial news about new chips unveiled by domestic chip maker Loongson Technology Corp. The homegrown brand, formerly known as Godson, has over the years come across as a source of loud thunder but only small raindrops in terms of its commercial viability.

Loongson announced four new chips on Tuesday: the 1H, which features heat resistance and is tailored for well drilling applications; the dual-core 2K1000 which is aimed at cyber security and mobile devices; and the 3A3000 and 3B3000 chips for desktop and server applications. To be fair, these chips demonstrate the firm's technical capabilities. But in the chip making space where it's never only about technical strength, it matters even more to be able to build a viable ecosystem.

Even though it has been around since 2001, Loongson has yet to prove its success in building an ecosystem. That might be about to change, however. Also on Tuesday, domestic operating system developers including China Standard Software and Wuhan Deepin Technology announced new 64-bit operating systems based on Loongson's platforms, in addition to Loongson-powered software applications showcased at the product launch event. Furthermore, Loongson took the wraps off a developer plan and an industrial investment fund.

This surely indicates the chip maker's effort to shift its focus from research and development toward ecosystem creation. But this transition may have come a little too late. Loongson has not always been quick to catch up with market trends, which somewhat runs counter to its supposed role as a paradigm of success in developing indigenous technologies, let alone fulfilling the ambition for China to achieve processor self-sufficiency or even to be able to export locally made processors.

Loongson could go a step further by exploring deeper cooperation with domestic operating system developers to jointly fulfill user needs, as well as seeking partnerships with the likes of Tencent and Alibaba to introduce Loongson-powered applications that genuinely read users' minds. After all, local Internet leviathans have proved their talent in creating ecosystems and carving out commercial successes both domestically and abroad.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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