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中国首款通用RISC-V MCU
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BRIAN SANTO: I’m Brian Santo, EE Times Editor in Chief, and you're listening to EE Times on Air.

Chinese memory chip supplier GigaDevice just made a huge splash in China introducing a line of RISC-V microcontrollers. The company claims they’re the first general purpose RISC-V MCUs ever. We’ll discuss why these MCUs are significant.
中国存储芯片供应商兆易创新在中国引入了一系列RISC-V微控制器。该公司声称其产品是有史以来第一批通用RISC-V MCU。我们将就这些MCU为何具有重要意义进行讨论。

GigaDevices previously made its own pin-compatible versions of Arm-based microcontrollers produced by STMicrolectronics. Last week, it made a huge splash in China by introducing new versions of many of those same microcontrollers, only these are NOT based on Arm, they’re based on open-source RISC-V technology.
兆易创新早先曾制造过和ST基于Arm的微控制器引脚兼容的产品。上周,兆易创新推出了许多相同微控制器的新版本,在中国引起了巨大的轰动。不过这些微控制器不是基于Arm,而是基于开源RISC-V技术。

These microcontrollers are among the first RISC-V-based products in China, and GigaDevices claims they're the first general-purpose RISC-V microcontrollers in the world. EE Times China editor Illumi Huang was at the event. Junko Yoshida caught up Illumi’s colleague, Echo Zhao, to get more on GigaDevices.
这些微控制器是中国首批基于RISC-V的产品,兆易创新声称其产品是世界上第一批通用的RISC-V微控制器。 EE Times中国编辑Illumi Huang参加了此次兆易创新的活动。Junko Yoshida联线到Illumi的同事Echo Zhao,获取更多关于兆易创新的信息。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: Hi, Echo. How are you today?
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 嗨,Echo,今天过的怎么样?

ECHO ZHAO: Good. I’m perfect.
ECHO ZHAO: 很好,状态极佳。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: You're perfect! Okay! So we want to talk about GigaDevice today. When I first met the company CEO, Yiming Zhu, in 2012 in Beijing, I remember GigaDevice was chasing Nor Flash memory market. What business are they in today?
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 好的!今天我们想谈谈兆易创新。我记得当我第一次见到兆易创新的CEO朱一明,是2012年在北京的时候,当时兆易创新正在竞逐Nor Flash内存市场。 他们目前是在做哪方面的业务呢?

ECHO ZHAO: Yes, GigaDevice started from Nor Flash, and they are very successful on edge. And then they acquired a company called Silead to get in the sensor market.
ECHO ZHAO: 是的,兆易创新从Nor Flash起家,并且做的非常成功。后来他们还收购了一家名为思立微的公司,借此进入传感器市场。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: I believe GigaDevice is in the pin-to-pin compatible STMicroelectronics MCU business. When did they get into the MCU market, and how significant of the MCU market is within GigaDevice?
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 我相信兆易创新有做封装与引脚兼容ST MCU的产品。他们是何时进入MCU市场的?兆易创新在MCU市场做的怎么样?

ECHO ZHAO: Well, I think it started as an MCU business about seven or eight years ago, and according to last year's annual report, MCU accounted for 18% of their total revenue.
ECHO ZHAO: 兆易创新的MCU业务起源于七八年前,根据去年的年度报告,MCU占其总收入的18%。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: I see. So MCU is kind of their way to expand the business, right?
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 我明白了。 所以MCU是他们扩展业务的一种方式,对吧?

ECHO ZHAO: Correct.
ECHO ZHAO: 是的。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: Obviously with this announcement last week, they are getting into the RISC-V business, but I don't believe GigaDevice is the only company in China doing RISC-V, right? So there are some other players I think. Tell me a little bit about that, Echo.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 显然,上周这个公告显示他们正在进入RISC-V业务,但我不认为兆易创新是中国唯一一家做RISC-V的公司,对吧?我认为还有其他一些公司也在开展这项业务。Echo,请跟我讲讲。

ECHO ZHAO: Yes, exactly. Many companies are interested in RISC-V in China, but few of them have commercial products. Some well-known IP companies like C-Sky (now Pingtouge) and Nuclei, who provide RISC-V IP cores for GigaDevice's MCU. And there are some AI chips from Huami Technology and RIVAI, and as they are already in the market.
ECHO ZHAO: 确实是这样。在中国,许多公司都对RISC-V感兴趣,不过很少有商业化的产品。一些著名的IP公司,如C-Sky(现为平头哥)和芯来(该公司为兆易创新的MCU提供RISC-V IP核)。 还有一些来自华米科技和睿思芯科的AI芯片已经在市面上销售。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: So those are the two companies. Okay. But there's no other...
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 所以目前是两家公司。好的。但没有其他......

ECHO ZHAO: Yes, but for the general purpose MCU, GigaDevice is the first company who launched RISC-V-based MCU chips.
ECHO ZHAO: 是的,但对于通用MCU,兆易创新是第一家推出基于RISC-V 的MCU芯片公司。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: Got it. All right. GigaDevice didn't just announce their new RISC-V MCU, but they actually held a big event, a big RISC-V event, in Beijing last week. What was it like?
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 好的,了解。兆易创新不仅公开了他们的新RISC-V MCU,并且上周在北京举办了一场大型RISC-V活动。活动现场如何呢?

ECHO ZHAO: Okay, our partner, Illumi, was on site. The event was not only for media, but also for engineers. Illumi mentioned to me there were hundreds of system engineers there, and there were lot of RISC-V MCU-based demos there, as if to say, Hah! It's very easy to transplant your design to RISC-V MCU.
ECHO ZHAO: 嗯,我们的同事Illumi到现场参加了活动。这次活动不仅面向媒体,也面向工程师。Illumi跟我提到,活动现场有数百名系统工程师,会上有很多基于RISC-V MCU的演示,好像在说:哈! 将您的设计移到RISC-V MCU是非常容易的。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: GigaDevice claims that they made a migration path onto RISC-V easy. Here's what Eric Jin, Product Marketing Director of the MCU Business Unit of GigaDevice told us earlier today.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 兆易创新声称他们让RISC-V的迁移变得容易。这是兆易创新 MCU业务部产品营销总监金光一今天早些时候告诉我们的。

ERIC JIN: Yes, because many customers use our Arm MCUs, so they can have a faster channel from the Arm MCUs to migrate to to the RISC-V MCUs. So all the MCU series is pin-to-pin compatible, part number compatible, and software compatible. So the users can easily migrate from Arm MCUs into RISC-V MCUs, and they are the first ones of the very compatible advantage so that customers can easily develop other MCUs.
ERIC JIN: 是的,因为许多客户使用我们的Arm MCU,因此他们可以更快速的将自己的设计从ARM MCU转移到RISC-V MCU。所有MCU系列都是引脚兼容,器件号兼容和软件兼容。用户可以轻松地从Arm MCU迁移到RISC-V MCU,该产品是第一个具有突出兼容优势的,客户因此可以轻松开发其他MCU。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: But a big question for everybody is this, I think: For example, if I were an IoT system designer in China today, why would I ever want to switch to RISC-V-based system? I'm doing just fine with Arm-based MCU system. So Echo and I asked GigaDevice's Eric about his take on this earlier today. He didn’t exactly answer our question, but here’s what he said.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 但我认为,对所有人来说有一个很大的问题:例如,如果我目前在中国是一名物联网系统设计师,我为什么要转换到基于RISC-V的系统呢?我觉得基于Arm的MCU系统就很好。 所以Echo和我今天早些时候向兆易创新的Eric询问了他本人对此的看法。 不过他并没有确切回答我们的问题,以下是他的回答。

ERIC JIN: It depends on the MCU designation and the features. And now we released the first 14 family memories in a mainstream line. So we also plan to release the low-cost, entry-level line and high-performance line.
ERIC JIN: 这取决于MCU的设计和功能。现在我们发布了第一个主流产品线有14款旗舰。我们还计划发布低成本的、入门级的和高性能的产品线。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: So, Echo, what’s your take on this?
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 那么Echo,你对此有何看法?

ECHO ZHAO: Well, if you want to entice engineers, performance and cost is not enough. It should be very easy for them to transplant their design to RISC-V-based MCU. Some people are worried about the ecosystem, but I think it's lucky that no single company can control the entire IoT market. IoT is a very fragmented market, so ecosystem support is not a big issue I think.
ECHO ZHAO:如果你想吸引工程师,只靠性能和成本是不够的。 他们应该很容易将他们的设计移植到基于RISC-V的MCU。 有些人担心的是生态系统,但我认为幸运的是没有任何一家公司可以控制整个物联网市场。 物联网是一个非常分散的市场,因此我认为生态系统支持并不是一个大问题。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: Interesting. All right, so your point is that for IoT market, the size of the ecosystem probably doesn't matter that much.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 有趣。好吧,所以你的观点是,对于物联网市场而言,生态系统的规模可能并不那么重要。

ECHO ZHAO: A lot of experts think so, too.
ECHO ZHAO: 很多专家也这么认为。

JUNKO YOSHIDA: All right. Okay. So here's my take to wrap this up: GigaDevice in my opinion became already very successful with its MCU business because they made their products pin-to-pin compatible with STMicroelectronics' MCUs. And of course their offering was cheaper than ST’s, right? So that was their playbook. I think GigaDevice is using the same playbook here again. They want to make their RISC-V products pin-to-pin compatible with Arm-based MCUs. So we'll see if GigaDevice can use the same strategy twice and succeed again.
JUNKO YOSHIDA: 好的。那么谈谈我的想法:我认为兆易创新的MCU业务已经非常成功,因为他们的产品与ST的MCU引脚兼容。 当然他们的产品比ST的便宜,对吧? 这就是他们的策略。我认为兆易创新这次也使用了相同的策略。他们希望让RISC-V产品与基于ARM的MCU引脚兼容。那么我们将拭目以待兆易创新是否可以使用相同的策略两次并且获得成功。

BRIAN SANTO: And here’s one more take this story. With the US blocking the sale of western technology to China, that leaves many Chinese manufacturers in a bind. Among them are the ones that have been developing products for the Internet of Things, companies that have already chosen to use popular microcontrollers based on Arm – which they are now barred from using. What to do? This is where the easy migration path that Eric Jin referred to comes in. Chinese OEMs who were using Arm-based microcontrollers can quickly adopt the pin-compatible RISC-V-based replacements from GigaDevices. The RISC-V MCUs are an alternative for anyone who cannot use Arm, or does not want to.
BRIAN SANTO: 关于这个故事还有另一则新闻。随着美国阻止向中国出售西方技术,许多中国制造商陷入困境。其中包括那些一直在为物联网开发产品的公司,已经选择使用基于Arm的通用微控制器的公司—— 这些公司现在被禁用。现在该怎么办?这就是金光一提到的简单迁移路径。使用基于Arm微控制器的中国OEM可以快速采用兆易创新引脚兼容的基于RISC-V的替代品。RISC-V MCU是任何不能使用Arm或不想使用Arm企业的替代品。

The English translation of the original story by Illumi Huang in EE Times China is on our web site. It’s called “GigaDevice Intros General-Purpose RISC-V MCUs.”
Illumi Huang在EE Times中国的原创报道英文翻译版本已在EE Times英文网站推出。文章标题为“GigaDevice Intros General-Purpose RISC-V MCUs.”。

 

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