Sony debuts Crusoe notebook

Sony debuts Crusoe notebook

Sony has released the first notebook to be powered by Transmeta's Crusoe chip on the Australian market. In announcing the availability of its new VAIO notebook, the PictureBook C1VM which features a 600MHz Crusoe processor, Sony claims the new low-power chip will nearly double the battery life of its new portable offering.

"We chose Trans-meta because we are able to run the processor more efficiently - it runs cooler and the battery life of the notebook is essentially doubled," said Sony Australia's VAIO project team leader Daniel Horan. "It varies depending on what you are doing, but generally speaking the battery will last up to five hours, whereas it is normally two and half hours."

The notebook, which will retail for $3799, also features a built-in progressive-scan CCD camera, a 12GB hard drive, 128MB SDRAM and a Sony Memory Stick Direct slot.

"Compared to the previous version, which retailed for $4099, and with the currency conversion, it is pretty amazing," Horan said.

The Vaio has enjoyed strong sales since July, according to Sony. The company cleared its stock on October 4, with the channel winding down sales since. The company is shipping three more updated VAIO models - the PCG 250GA, the XE17 and the F670. Each will ship with improvements in CPU speeds and memory and will retail for $4899, $6199 and $3599 respectively. All new models will run on Microsoft's Windows ME operating system.

The key to Transmeta's chip is the software that sits over the processor. Known as Code Morphing, the software determines what speed the notebook runs at depending upon the application by translating x86 instructions into the native engine of the hardware. Each time a program is run, the software saves the translations into a cache so the processor gradually reaches optimal speed for the application.

"A lot of benchmarking tests are structured for existing processors but this chip has quite a different way of operating," Horan explained.

Comparing it to existing offerings is like comparing apples and oranges, he said.

The Crusoe is designed specifically for mobile applications and Sony has included software which allows the user to monitor the speed at which the CPU runs.

The new notebook also comes bundled with a full range of digital editing software and features improvements to its camera technology and upgraded memory on previous models. Horan said Sony had designed the C1VM specifically for the consumer market.

"We want to create new markets, so the main focus of the VAIO concept is to bring together the AV and IT world - that word convergence that everyone has talked about but until now no one has delivered," Horan said.

Transmeta listed on the Nasdaq exchange last week, launching an anticipated 13 million share initial public offering. The company increased its asking price from $US11-13 to the $16-18 range in the lead up to the IPO, and then again to $21. Trading under the ticker symbol TMTA, Transmeta could gain about $273 million at the current prices.

While IBM has announced it will not be using the chips in its products and Compaq will not yet commit to a Crusoe-powered notebook, the likes of NEC and Hitachi have announced they will use the CPU in products for the Japanese market.

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