The long anticipated processor from secretive startup Transmeta was finally unveiled yesterday. Called Crusoe, the chip has until now been best known for one of its main backers, Linus Torvalds, rather than for its technology.
The heart of the technology revealed yesterday is a microprocessor that attempts to remove the complexity and expense of designing a processor by putting that complexity into software rather than into silicon.
Crusoe, which will be the brand name for Transmeta's first family of mobile chips, will bring increased power and longer battery life to a range of mobile devices used to access the Internet, from full-fledged laptop computers to new types of emerging devices like Web pads and handheld computers, promised David Ditzel, Transmeta's CEO.
The key to Crusoe's capabilities is its "code morphing" technology, which converts instructions written for x86-type processors such as Intel's Pentium III chips into VLIW (very long instruction word) instructions that can be read by Crusoe's underlying hardware, Ditzel said.
"Transmeta's new idea here was not to use silicon itself to solve the problem, but to use software to solve it," said Ditzel, a former chief architect at AT&T's Bell Laboratories.
Two chips were unveiled: the TM5400, for lightweight notebook computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, and the TM3120, a processor for Internet appliances running the Linux OS.
The TM3120 processor is priced at $US65 for the 333MHz version and $89 for the 400MHz version. Transmeta said in a statement it tried to price the chips economically enough for use in Linux-based Web pads, which will be priced between $500 and $999.
The TM5400 will be offered in a range of performance levels from 500MHz to 700MHz and aimed at ultra-lightweight notebooks that will be priced between $1200 and $2500, the company said. The 500MHz version will list for $119, while the 700MHz version will be $329.
Transmeta now employs 200 people. Most are at the company's Californian headquarters. Others are in Japan and Taiwan, where much of the PC manufacturing industry resides, Ditzel said.http://www.transmeta.com