Transmeta's Crusoe: The Blair Witch Chip

FRAMINGHAM (01/24/2000) - Cloaked in the same media-savvy secrecy that kept teen-agers enthralled by last summer's hit movie The Blair Witch Project, an innovative chip for mobile computing made its surprisingly splashy debut last week. Why surprising? Try to name the last time a microprocessor introduction made it to CNN Headline News or caught anything like the media wave that surged around Transmeta Corp.'s Crusoe chips.

Radio stations up and down the West Coast were calling Computerworld two days before the mysterious chip's Jan. 19 launch, wanting to know what we knew about it. What did those hidden messages on Transmeta's Web site mean? Was this really going to be (dramatic pause) The Intel Killer? Well, with a 82 percent share of the $22 billion microprocessor industry, reports of Intel's imminent demise are probably a trifle premature.

What enhanced Transmeta's media buzz was its carefully crafted reputation for secrecy, which fueled interest and speculation among Silicon Valley tech-watchers. What Transmeta finally had to show for itself after five years of effort was a technically intriguing, software-driven approach to chip design that makes Crusoe processors tiny but powerful, and extremely lightweight in power consumption. That makes them prime candidates for the incoming flood of handheld and mobile devices.

But why should corporate IT managers make a mental bookmark of a chip unveiling? Sure, Crusoe runs Intel apps, but more important, mobile devices (not laptops) will outnumber PC desktops in your company by at least 3-to-1 in just a few years. What looks like a niche market today is really a vast unclaimed frontier, with the Intel challengers emerging now to stake it out.

The inexorable rise of ubiquitous computing means your users will travel farther afield with greater access to corporate data than ever before. These mobile and wireless gadgets are already creating new ways of doing business, and that trend will escalate rapidly. Start thinking now about how to integrate these 21st-century technologies with your existing infrastructure of PCs, servers and networks. Don't end up lost in the woods as the next Blair Witch phenomenon arrives.

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