back to article Chinese schools testing 10,000 locally made RISC-V-ish PCs

China's long march towards creation and adoption of its own information technology stack has taken a long stride forward after a school district commenced a trial of 10,000 PCs powered by domestically designed processors. As revealed in a post on social messaging service QQ, the city of Hebi – population 1.5 million – has …

  1. 3arn0wl

    A sea change

    Targeting the next generation at school is the best way to invoke a transition away from proprietary software : what's the norm there, will remain their norm afterwards.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: A sea change

      Yup there are many current ideological reasons for "educating" them young.... unfortunately......

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Khaptain - Re: A sea change

        Everybody and his dog know that it's easier to go after the children. They ask no questions and swallow whatever they are told.

        Don't fool yourself into believing it happens only in China.

        1. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: @Khaptain - A sea change

          "Everybody and his dog know that it's easier to go after the children."

          Religion being No. 1, very much so in the USA.

          1. fg_swe Bronze badge
            FAIL

            Yeah

            It's so much better to teach children the moneyman ideology of materialism and communism, eh ?

      2. mark l 2 Silver badge

        Re: A sea change

        Yeah that exactly why Microsoft push so hard for schools to take Windows and Microsoft 365 so they can lock them into the ecosystem early.

        Then whey you leave full time education you will have been indoctrinated to believe because you need to pay MS £60 pa to have 365 subscription for the once a month they might actually use it.

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Headmaster

    195 million students and served by 18.8 million teachers

    That's an impressive pupil teacher ratio!

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: 195 million students and served by 18.8 million teachers

      On the face of it yes, although if that includes admin, classroom and teaching assistants, possibly not so far from western best practice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 195 million students and served by 18.8 million teachers

        Unlike over here being a teacher is a respected profession.

        1. EricB123 Bronze badge

          Re: 195 million students and served by 18.8 million teachers

          "Unlike over here being a teacher is a respected profession."

          As it is almost everywhere in Asia.

  3. rgjnk
    Boffin

    Mixed bag

    I'd have thought history would have proven that one fraction of the market going into a tech silo is usually more negative for that fragment than the lost sales will be to everyone else.

    They're in their national walled garden and everyone else moves on. Especially when the 'local' innovations are all copies or derivatives of other people's work. Not the first time we've seen this play out with PCs & electronics, just this time with Hanzi instead of Cyrillic markings.

    As for trying out a 3A5000, that seems like a bit of a brave decision, even more so than most of the usual tech. All sorts of fun hidden features almost certain to be embedded into that kit.

    1. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Mixed bag

      "Walled Garden"? My guess is that they are aiming for anything but. More like the undeveloped world. About half the human race even if they ignore India which will likely produce something similar. Probably cheap hardware. Likely dirt cheap if not free software. This looks intended to be competition for Google/Chromebook, not Microsoft, Dell, HP, Apple. A lot would seem to depend on how well the software supports alphabetic languages, (i.e. most languages other than Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese).

      1. 3arn0wl

        Re: Mixed bag

        I agree with you that China is going to remain keen to export their wares, but I think that all Western tech companies, economy to premium, and chip-design to app, are going to take a hit.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Mixed bag

          "I agree with you that China is going to remain keen to export their wares, but I think that all Western tech companies, economy to premium, and chip-design to app, are going to take a hit."

          They don't need to export in the early days. They save money leaving their economy to companies such as Google and Microsoft and keep it within their borders. With their population, it could be in a handful of years the rest of the world will have to become interoperable with their systems rather than the other way around.

          For school (K-12 in the US), cutting edge performance is not a factor. An office suite, some basic image processing and an illustration application is all they need other than internet applications. Adding effects in real time to 8k video isn't a defining goal for 10yo kids. Certainly not for an entire classroom.

          Better is the enemy of good enough.

      2. Scene it all

        Re: Mixed bag

        It is not a walled garden if this platform uses standard data formats for files, images, audio, and network. LibreOffice for example can easily deal with Microsoft Windows files. Just like it is of no concern to most people if your computer uses Intel, AMD, ARM, or RISCV hardware. Even with the Great Firewall, the internet protocols used *within* China are the same ones used everywhere else,

    2. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: Mixed bag

      > As for trying out a 3A5000, that seems like a bit of a brave decision...

      I don't really understand why this is a brace decision. If they are running, for the most part, open source/free software then as long as the regular compilers (GNU etc) support it, then they're good to go. For most situations, what CPU the software is running stopped being an important consideration years ago.

      Opting for proprietary software like Windows is the much braver decision if you have other options, considering you are restricted to supported CPUs, chipsets and the like. Witness the kerfuffle with Windows 11 and the onerous restrictions on what it will run on.

      1. HuBo
        Pirate

        Re: Mixed bag

        I'd love to reefer to Simon's Desktop Tourism series on this question of bravery ... inquiring minds ("everyone" in the Free World wants to know if this CPU really smokes)!

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Andrew Hodgkinson

      Re: Mixed bag

      Given the total shit that is the duopoly of Microsoft and Apple in the desktop space, where your choices are tracking-infested bugware or less-tracking-infested just-as-buggy-ware on insanely expensive hardware, with quality declining every year and invasive advertising and tracking on the rise as the enshittification deepens...

      ...then if I was a nation with enough money, I'd be running screaming as fast as I could from the craptastic, greedy clusterfuck of USA-originated computing. Now, on the one hand, that could just mean some ARM-based derivative and Linux, but ARM still has some dubious heritage and lots of licensing costs. For China specifically, Japanese ownership may well be seen as problematic as UK or USA ownership and you're still beholden to late-stage capitalism enshittification.

      The only viable solution is to go totally open and stick two fingers up to the arseholes that have made life so expensive and low-quality-miserable for everyone else in the rest of the world. About time too.

      Good luck to them. I hope it succeeds. It's certainly going to have to work hard to be worse than the bloated, overpriced mess the rest of us have to put up with.

      1. fg_swe Bronze badge
        Go

        Or

        Go for the IT Airbus. Based on Linux, BSD and other FOSS, but nicely polished. Fully DSGVO compatible. No covert recon bugs, but transparent Lawful Intercept*

        DeltaChat as the messenger

        Italian design, German manufacturing quality, Swedish GUI library, British CPU,...

        Will cost just as much as an Apple, because there is no slave labour in Europe. Still only 1/10th of what a car costs.

        *add the national police agency as a further recipient in any GNUpg message.

  4. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Interesting numbers.

    195 million students assuming K-12 if accurate a bit of a worry for the PRC. For a the reputed 1 billion population that is 19.5% of the population (and declining.)

    The US had 53 million K-12 students out of 328 million population around 2019 but as a proportion of the population the ration is pretty stable I suspect the US rates are underestimated due to factors like home schooling and undocumented status of parents etc.

    I cannot see any reason why using a non x86 processor, Linux distro and basic office applications derived from open source would not work in the PRC. Whether it makes economic sense depends on what its replaciing amd whether they paid for it (or not.:)

    If the architecture gets enough traction I am sure MS would produce a version of Windows for that market if there were any money in it..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Interesting numbers.

      Microsoft saw a 17% increase in annual revenue from 2020 to 2021. Microsoft's net income was $461.3 billion in 2021. China represents less than 2% of Microsoft's revenue.

      So, almost a zero revenue / usage ratio, while giving access to MS source code, opening R&D centers, and providing lots of investment money. What has MS's excellent behavior bought them in their chummy relationship with the CCCP? "US government excoriates Microsoft for 'avoidable errors' but keeps paying for its products" [TheReg]

  5. PM.

    How convenient...

    .. that GPL is not enforceable in China .

    They can make closed source derivatives of Linux and laugh whole world in their face

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How convenient...

      > They can make closed source derivatives of Linux and laugh whole world in their face

      Ah, so you agree that the Chinese are capable of making superb software. So much so that without sharing their mods with The West they will be able create such a great advantage, worth laughing about.

      (Otherwise what is to laugh about? Closing their Linux source is naughty, but what would anyone outside China lose by this? Their improved drivers for the Longsoon CPU? The people who lose out from not getting sources to Chinese OSes are the Chinese citizens who are using it, not the rest of the world)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How convenient...

      > They can make closed source derivatives of Linux and laugh whole world in their face

      True enough; they have the man power to cut out systemd completely, without having to rely on all the dummy files and fakery that Devuan and so on use trick programs that think they have to connect to the init system.

      1. ldo

        Re: the man power to cut out systemd completely

        Wow. It took just 2 programmers to create systemd, yet the entire combined might of Register-reader programmer smarts has not been able to uncreate it. And you think the Chinese will be able to accomplish the job? But those fun-loving adherents of Xi Jin Ping thought can’t possibly have l33ter sk1llz than Register readers, can they?

      2. fg_swe Bronze badge
        Go

        BSD ?

        BSD does not use systemd. Why do they have to use Linux ?

        1. ldo

          Re: BSD does not use systemd.

          They would like to, though. That’s why they have their own systemd-lookalike project, called “InitWare”.

  6. Cheshire Cat
    Pirate

    Microsoft will not lose much...

    ... because most of the Windows in China is pirated anyway.

    I'm more interested in whether or not this new architecture will become available outside China, and if it will join x86 et al as a standard linux build. A bit more competition for Intel might get things to improve in general

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Microsoft will not lose much...

      A bit more competition for Intel might get things to improve in general AMD on design, TSMC on fab, I386 losing its pole position - there is a lot competition already.

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