Undaunted by last week's news that both Compaq Computer and IBM would wait before including the Crusoe processor in their mobile offerings, officials for Transmeta announced here at Comdex Tuesday support from several Japanese vendors, and at the same time offered a development strategy that should increase the performance of Crusoe every six months.
The company also revealed that in 2002 it will introduce the "New Crusoe," which will possess a "new architecture, twice the performance of current Crusoe chips, and consume 50 percent less power," said Ed Mckernan, the director of marketing for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Transmeta.
From the beginning, the company targeted its low-power Crusoe chip at mobile users seeking maximum battery life, and not those looking for desktop PC replacements, Mckernan said.
Transmeta defines the "true mobility" category as ultra-light portable computers, weighing less than 3 pounds, with battery life, not processor speed, being the key attribute.
"The highest [market] growth rate is in true mobility," said McKernan, who presented no evidence that Transmeta plans to attempt to capture market share from neighboring Intel in the 5-10 pound "desktop replacement" mobile computing category.
Intel sells a mobile Pentium III SpeedStep processor designed for low-power usage in portable devices, which both IBM and Compaq will use in place of Crusoe, officials said.
Defending Crusoe as the champion of the ultra-light space, McKernan said Intel "has been pushing the absolute highest performance" from its chips, and that the company has been forced to do a reversal, "going backwards in megahertz to achieve low-wattage consumption."
Intel's SpeedStep processor, which operates as fast as 700MHz, will debut as a 500-300Mhz chip by the first half of 2001, consuming only half a watt of power, Intel officials said. Crusoe currently runs between 600-533MHz, consuming the same amount of power, McKernan said.
Transmeta has gotten big commitments from Japanese mobile computer makers. On display at Comdex were Crusoe-powered systems from Sony and Fujitsu, as well as a 3-pound system called "LaVie" from Tokyo-based NEC, which can run more than 10 hours on a single battery charge, Mckernan said.
Several portable computer prototypes were also on display, along with the Crusoe-powered, co-branded Internet appliance from partners Gateway and America Online.
Transmeta officials believe that mobile computing trends in Japan will soon make their way to the United States. "Trends in Japan will flow this way eventually," said McKernan.
Transmeta plans to upgrade Crusoe via the chip's code morphing software (CMS) every six months. CMS lets the Crusoe processor actually read incoming command lines at the software level, rather than reacting strictly from the hardware level, like an Intel-based processor does. This feature allows Crusoe to be upgraded at the software level, rather than having to add additional transistors, as would have to be done with an Intel-based chip.
This type of software upgrade McKernan said would add no extra hardware to the chip and will keep the future power consumption of Crusoe low while increasing performance. But McKernan emphasized that performance increase for Crusoe would only constitute what was necessary to run certain applications, with the high-side being the ability to play quality DVDs.
"[Transmeta and Intel] compete on the mobility side, not the desktop replacement side," McKernan said.
A 700MHz version of Crusoe, the TM5600, will be available in the first quarter of 2001. Following later in the year will be the release of the TM5800, which will be manufactured down to 0.13-micron technology and run at a still-undisclosed speed.