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Transmeta's 'Astro' to Ship This Summer

Semiconductor maker Transmeta Thursday said it will start shipping its long-awaited TM8000 processor (also known as "Astro") sometime after July 1.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company made the announcement during its quarterly earnings call. Financially, the company is seeing better numbers. For its fiscal first quarter, Transmeta posted a narrower first-quarter loss and a rise in revenue from a year earlier.

President and CEO Dr. Matthew R. Perry said feedback from customers on the TM8000 continued to be "positive", and production remains on plan for the third quarter of this year.

"Our TM8000 processor will increase computing efficiency through its advanced versions of our Code Morphing Software and LongRun power and thermal management technologies and by executing up to eight instructions per clock," he said.

The Astro is expected to be used in a gamut of devices ranging from ultra-light notebooks to high-density blade servers .

"We are in a transition period as our embedded designs begin to ramp and as mobile computing design activity shifts to our TM8000 processor. Customers are currently designing the TM8000 into fall 2003 models of Tablet PCs and small-screen notebooks, as well as evaluating it for spring 2004 models of 12- to 14-inch notebooks," said Dr. Perry. "We believe the embedded ramp and transition to the TM8000 will stimulate growth in the second half of the year; however, it is not likely to be sufficient to achieve our goal of profitability in the fourth quarter. We will continue to control our spending and closely monitor our revenue growth during the second half of the year, still driving toward a goal of profitability."

The TM8000 is being produced as a 256-bit VLIW version processor with eight 32-bit instructions executed per clock. Transmeta said fab-less partner TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) is still in pre-production with the 0.13-micron process processor. Transmeta was guarded about Astro's final speed capabilities. Earlier conversations with company execs pointed to the TM8000 as clocking at 1GHz.

The chip includes integrated Northbridge core-logic technology, which connects the CPU to the system memory and the AGP and PCI buses. The three new high performance bus interfaces include an on-chip 400 MHz HyperTransport bus interface, a technology taken straight out of AMD's design playbook as well as Double Date Rate 400 (DDR-400) DRAM memory interface; and AGP-4X graphics interface all on the same die. Previous versions of Transmeta chips took the PCI graphics approach.

Transmeta also lauded its Crusoe TM5800 processor in the embedded market, noting several key designs that the company expects to announce in the coming quarters.

"In addition to supplying our processors to the ultra-light notebook and Tablet PC markets, we also expect to be a leading supplier to Ultra-Personal Computer (UPC) manufacturers where energy efficiency is key," said Dr. Perry.

The company is making a name for itself overseas. In the past three months, the company has inked partnerships with U.K. and Chinese device manufacturers including Time Computers, Viglen and China's second largest notebook maker, Tsinghua Unisplendour Group.

Transmeta's marquee chip relationship remains its supply deal with Hewlett-Packard for that company's Compaq Evo Tablet PCs.