Transmeta Licensees Target Ultrathin Laptops

SAN MATEO (06/30/2000) - Transmeta Corp.'s low-power Crusoe processor finally made its debut in ultrathin laptop computers this week at PC Expo in New York, and the company is already eyeing possibilities in the appliance and networking markets.

Despite the enormous hype that surrounded the near-celebrity processor prior to the trade show, demonstration units loaded with the processor -- from Japanese companies Hitachi Ltd. and NEC Corp., as well as a small, portable "Web pad" from Santa Clara, California-based Transmeta itself -- were put on display with little fanfare.

Likely future Crusoe user IBM Corp. was also on hand, but without one of four Crusoe-powered ThinkPad 240 models that officials for the Armonk, New York-based company said it would use to begin testing before committing to any large-scale deployment.

Santa Clara, California-based Fujitsu Ltd. PC, makers of the Crusoe motherboard, plans to introduce a Crusoe-powered device later this year. Two other computer manufacturers will also join the field with Crusoe offerings, "but a couple of them are behind closed doors for competitive reasons," said Ed McKernam, the director of marketing at Transmeta.

"Corporations have never been quick to adopt any new technology, a problem AMD still has today," said Dean McCarron, an analyst at Scottsdale, Arizona-based Mercury Research Inc. "But when you take a large corporation, a lot of the burden of proof rests on the equipment manufacturer and not the processor maker."

Transmeta's Crusoe processor has also apparently sparked a new round of competition in the low-power processor space as Austin, Texas-based Advanced Micro Devices Inc. deploys its PowerNow processor and fellow Santa Clara, California-based competitor Intel Corp. began shipping its own single-watt SpeedStep processor last week.

Whereas Transmeta is targeting the ultrathin device category due to the chip's capability of operating without a cooling fan while consuming as little as 1 watt of power and thereby extending battery life, the possible applications of Crusoe and its underlying technology reach far beyond that, Transmeta's McKernam said.

Crusoe's x86 compatibility makes it a fine candidate for a variety of Internet appliances, which are set to arrive before year's end.

Several networking companies have also approached Transmeta, McKernam said.

Crusoe technology may find its greatest potential in networking gear, as companies look for better ways to upgrade hardware devices deeply embedded in network relays.

As Transmeta's code-morphing technology -- which optimizes for efficient data processing -- evolves, owners of Crusoe-powered devices will eventually be able to go to the Transmeta Web site and then download the latest code-morphing software, upgrading their system remotely.

"We have a whole group looking at how applications run and how to improve our performance running them," McKernam said. Transmeta has pledged to keep wattage consumption low at 6 watts.

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