Transmeta readies Crusoe for third parties

www.infoworld.com |  Hardware

TRANSMETA OFFICIALS are giving strong indications that the company's Crusoe processor will make its first appearance in a third-party computer chassis at next month's PC Expo in New York.

In January, Transmeta -- whose employees include Linux creator Linus Torvalds -- unveiled the series of simplified Crusoe processors capable of performing many functions through software rather than hardware. Then the company said it planned to ship commercial products to manufacturers by midyear for integration in notebook PCs, Linux-based Web pads, and Internet appliances.

"What we didn't have [at the processor launch] was brand-name manufacturers," said Colin Hunter, a co-founder of Transmeta.

Two likely candidates for hosting the Crusoe processor in name-brand systems are Compaq and Gateway.

During last April's America Online/Gateway Internet appliance launch, officials at Gateway said the use of the Crusoe processor in future Internet appliances was "under consideration." Gateway and Compaq each have made considerable investments in Transmeta.

And start-up Transmeta appears ready to ship its Crusoe processor in large volume to computer makers willing to incorporate it.

Recently, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) completed pilot production of a 0.15-micron processor for Transmeta. And according to TSMC spokesman J.H. Tzeng, the company could begin producing the processor in volume almost immediately if Transmeta gives the word.

Volume production of the chip would use TSMC's new 0.15-micron technology foundry facilities. This technology, which TSMC began using in volume production in January, allows processors to achieve higher speeds in a smaller space for a lower cost, Tzeng said.

"We are trying to use the most advanced 0.15-micron technology, so if Transmeta asks us to do a certain amount of volume production, I think we can probably help them in the very short term," Tzeng said.

Transmeta's Hunter said that although the company is "aggressively pursuing both the Internet appliance and the laptop" markets with the Crusoe processor, Transmeta will be "showing some new things at the PC Expo."

Crusoe is X86-compatible and offers high performance roughly comparable to Intel's Pentium II and Pentium III processors when running at the same frequency on Linux, said Hunter.

Crusoe's low-power features make it ideal for mobile computing. According to Hunter, Crusoe incorporates a technology called Long Run, which adjusts the processor frequency on the fly, depending on overall system needs.

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