The Quick Rise Technology Guide
Founded in 1993, Rise Technology was one of a number of companies that tried and failed to muscle their way into the microprocessor market. The company got its first products to market in 1998, and would be acquired by SiS shortly thereafter, in 1999. SiS didn't make much of its new assets, and Rise soon faded away.
Rise was founded in 1993 by David Lin. The company aimed to capture the very low end of the market (a segment that Cyrix and others were also gunning for) with inexpensive chips. Also like Cyrix, Rise was a fabless company, dependent on outside companies (including UMC, one of its investors) to handle the actual manufacturing of its products.
The company did not release its first product until 1998. This product, the mP6, was meant to get Rise a foothold in the low-end PC market. Unfortunately, the company's timing was exceptionally poor. Early in 1999, Intel began drastically cutting the prices on its low-end Celeron processors. This was a crushing blow for all of its competitors: National Semiconductor's Cyrix and IDT's Centaur were driven into VIA's arms, while AMD suffered major financial losses.
Rise was hit hard as well: in October 1999, almost exactly a year after the initial announcement of the mP6, the company was acquired by SiS.
In an effort to keep generating revenue, Rise recast itself as a supplier to embedded devices, including Internet appliances. In 2000 it inked a deal with STMicroelectronics to build system-on-chip (SoC) designs around the mP6 core. From this partnership came the iDragon SoC, which was meant "information appliance" devices. Rise withdrew from the general-purpose CPU market entirely, and soon faded from view.
The principal goal of Rise designs was to deliver decent performance at low cost, and to that end they were not exactly technological marvels (by microprocessor standards, anyway). What they were was cheap. The mP6 had a transistor count similar to the original Pentium (about 3.6 million transistors), which put it well below the Intel Pentium II and AMD K6-2, which were contemporary products. In the integrated circuit world, cost is closely (though not exclusively) related to die size, which is heavily influenced by the number of transistors in a chip. The mP6 could be made cheaply, which meant it could be sold cheaply.
The mP6 was also a low-power design, around an order of magnitude below the K6-2 and Pentium II. This would prove very helpful when Rise migrated to the embedded world, where getting rid of waste heat can be a major challenge.
The mP6 did support Intel's x86 instruction set and MMX extensions, which made it broadly compatible with a good amount of software.
The mP6 was Rise's only CPU product to make it to market. It sold in relatively small volume, despite its low price. It used Socket 7, the same socket as the Pentium MMX and most of its competitors. Like AMD and Cyrix, it used what amounted to a "PR rating" naming system that was meant to compare its performance to Intel's products. But that couldn't make up for the fact that the mP6 never made it to high enough clock speeds to be competitive.
Rise publicly discussed plans for a successor, mP6-II, that would have an on-die L2 cache and generally better performance. But it was not to be. It is not clear how far along in the design process Rise got before cancelling the project, but the mP6-II never made it to market.
The iDragon system-on-chip was the fruit of Rise's partnership with STMicroelectronics. It contained an mP6 core and support hardware, including graphics. Like the mP6, it never really gained traction.
Editor's note: This article is part of the expansion plan for the Big Processor Guide. It will make a lot more sense in the near future.