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Transmeta Enters Embedded Fray with Crusoe SE

Chipmaker Transmeta Monday released sample and quantity versions of a new version of its low-power Crusoe processor that can be embedded in some pretty harsh environments.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company said its new Crusoe Special Embedded (SE) microprocessors were designed and tested for long-term use in places where a chip's temperature can reach as high as 100(degrees) C. The company said its goal was to provide a chip for rigorous business applications like industrial automation, scientific instrumentation, retail kiosks, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, automotive infotainment, process control and home automation systems. The chip is x86-compatibile and comes in three speeds - 667 MHz, 800 MHz and 933 MHz. Transmeta said future versions of Crusoe SE processors would be available for even wider temperature ranges as well as slower and faster speeds.

Unlike the Crusoe's use in other environments like Toshiba notebooks, the SE version is more of a static write-once-read-many processor with available firmware updates.

"The Crusoe has been historically been used where battery life and heat are king," said Transmeta Director of Embedded Business Development Tom Lee. "With the embedded environments, battery power is not a problem because the systems are almost always plugged into a wall. Manufacturers are looking to use this in POS sales systems and set top boxes where reliability is key."

Lee said the Crusoe SE is also set in a small Northbridge package that it does not require a cooling fan like a K6, K7 or Athlon. That can be a bonus for equipment manufacturers since an electromechnanical device like a fan is going to fail long before the processor will.

The Crusoe SE processors run Microsoft Windows XPE and CE .NET as well as Linux and lesser-known languages like QNX. The chips use LongRun, an advanced power management technology to optimize processor frequency and voltage while monitoring chip temperature. Transmeta said the Crusoe SE also takes advantage of Upgraded Code Morphing Software to maximize real-time performance while maintaining complete x86-compatibility.

The company said its pricing would be pretty competitive too. For example, Transmeta suggests the 667 MHz Crusoe SE less than $50 per unit in volume.

To help with its development, Transmeta also launched an Embedded Partners Program for BIOS/firmware companies, such as General Software, Insyde Software and Phoenix Technologies; embedded operating system companies and silicon component suppliers like Microsoft , Red Hat , Wind River Systems and QNX Software Systems; and embedded design companies such as Advantech, Evalue Technology, Gespac, IBASE, ICP America, TransDominion Technologies, TransLink USA and Tri-M Systems.

Lee said companies are taking a second look at the embedded marketplace now that chipmakers are revamping their lineups.

The embedded market is very attractive to people like Wind River and Microsoft as well as BIOS vendors," Lee told internetnews.com. "These companies are looking to pick the appropriate chip for what they want to do because they don't want to spend on processing power they don't need. They are even looking at slower speed chips because the slower the chip, the lower the power."

Transmeta said it is close to releasing its Transmeta 8000, now called the Astro, which will debut later this year.