Beijing Linux User Group had a great meeting tonight. We were introduced to Dr. Zhang Fu Xin, Vice Researcher for the Institute of Computing Technology (ICT) and CEO for Lemote. Lemote is one of many emerging Chinese OEMs that are beginning to produce original concepts in hardware design and architecture.
Dr. Zhang began his work at Lemote at the urging of ICT. ICT has a 50 percent stake in Lemote, the other 50 percent belonging to the government. The government has funded the ICT and indirectly Lemote vary handsomely. This funding is what will allow Lemote achieve its goals which are to challenge Apple and Microsoft in the home media market, to further innovate computing in cars, and to mass produce a computer for the rural people of China.
The Lemote box is largely dependent on an ICT innovation, the Loongson Microprocessor, which is the first general purpose microprocessor in China. Interestingly enough, Loongson is licensed to a French company, ST Micro, for manufacturing and sales, of which its largest client is Lemote. The Lemote box is currently using the 2nd generation processor, 2E, which peaks at 1 GHz, 500@Spec CPU 2000. A 3rd generation is currently being designed and will have a multiple core design and be compatible with multiple platforms, including x86 and SPARC. The current processor only supports MIPS, which is a slight problem for community involvement as not many people have access to MIPS hardware.
Dr. Zhang has a strong passion for the open source community and has offered to give a box to anyone who wishes to contribute to the Lemote application platform. One of the reasons ICT brought Dr. Zhang into this company was because of his strong ties to the community--they want to leverage free software as the means for cost-effective development and as an avenue to innovate.
As to the Lemote box, its Boot Loader is pmon 2000, the box has been certified to work with MIPS, debian and SUNWAH. Certification for Gentoo, Hiweed, Magic, Red flag, Co Create and other distros is currently under way. The Lemote box is a mini PC that costs 1,600 RMB, but can be yours for free if you lend a hand. As one BLUG member commented, "Now I can imagine what it must have felt like in 1981 to have Bill Gates introduce his idea, to sit there and have someone put all the pieces together that could eventually begin a revolution." Whether or not the Lemote box will revolutionize the PC world I doubt, as does Dr. Zhang, but what it will do, like the E28 phone, is allow more people to have a cheap platform to innovate from.