Transmeta Fires Up Low-Power Chip Strategy

SAN MATEO (06/23/2000) - Transmeta Corp. will make its long-awaited announcement on the opening day of PC Expo in New York next week as to which OEMs will be the first to load their mobile computers with the company's low-power Crusoe processor.

The initiative could trigger new competition with established rivals Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) on the low-wattage front.

As many as six Crusoe-powered mobile devices will be on display at the trade show, representing both domestic and Japanese OEMs, according to Ed McKernam, director of marketing at Transmeta.

IBM Corp. already has unveiled a ThinkPad 240 running the Crusoe chip that will appear at the show. Other likely OEM candidates that are expected to take part in the announcement include Toshiba and possibly Hewlett-Packard Co., according to industry observers.

Transmeta officials have pin-pointed Crusoe's market as ultra-light mobile PCs and deny that the company will enter into a megahertz speed race with processor giant and fellow Santa Clara, California-based company Intel Corp.

Instead, Transmeta's efforts will focus on even lower wattage requirements for its processors and complete, optimized platforms that provide increased overall system performance, as well as added battery life.

Intel entered the low-watt processor arena last week with the introduction of a new 600MHz Pentium III SpeedStep processor. During a demonstration, the processor consumed an average of 2 watts of power while playing a DVD movie.

But the overall system requirements of the demonstration consumed nearly 15 watts, a figure Intel officials said would vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Transmeta officials believe they can produce a processor that will use even less than 1 watt as far processor requirements go, while attaining processor speeds as high as 700MHz, as required by the application that is running.

And it is the Crusoe chip's capability of throttling back to the lowest required clock speed needed to run any particular application, a technology called Long Run, that yields maximum power conservation and longer battery life.

Intel's SpeedStep processors conserve power by taking a single step down to a lower processor speed when power requirements are lower or when the unit is unplugged.

AMD's PowerNow shifts dynamically between six different processor speeds ranging from 500MHz down to 200MHz, depending on power requirements.

Long Run technology makes dynamic adjustments to Crusoe's clock speeds to any point, and added software functionality allows Transmeta to manufacture a less complex processor in Crusoe.

"We're ripping out transistors and moving functionality to software," said McKernam, who went on to dispel a rumor that the Crusoe processor utilized software emulation to increase performance.

"We do translation below the operating system level," McKernam said.

Both IBM and Transmeta are running Windows on their Crusoe devices.

The low-power front

Transmeta, Intel, and AMD will compete on low-watt processors.

Transmeta will offer the 400MHz TM3200 and the 700MHz TM5400Intel has the 750MHz PIII SpeedStep and the 600MHz PIII SpeedStepAMD contributes the 500MHz Mobile K6-III and Mobile K6-2+

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