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Transmeta Pushes Ahead With 90nm Efficeon

It's next generation Efficeon brand chip is not even on the market and already Transmeta is preparing for its next round of upgrades.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based low-power chipmaker Tuesday said volume production of its 90-nanometer (nm) version of its TM8000 processors is slated for second half of 2004. Similar to its 130-nm cousin, the 256-bit VLIW microprocessor has the capacity to run eight 32-bit instructions executed per clock and runs on 7-watts of power or less.

But more importantly, Transmeta named Fujitsu Semiconductor as the "first" foundry to produce the smaller chips. Engineering teams from the two companies have been working closely together to port the Efficeon design to Fujitsu's CS100 90-nm CMOS process, which features transistors with a 40nm physical gate length. Previously, Transmeta relied on fab-less partner TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) to make its low-power semiconductors. Transmeta said it still may use TSMC in the future to make its 90-nm and smaller chips.

"We selected Fujitsu as part of a multi-quarter evaluation because that company has a long history with its mainframe and server processors," said Transmeta Senior VP of Marketing Art Swift, who told internetnews.com that cost savings was not the primary motivation. "It was more their ability to ramp up production. Fujitsu's readiness was excellent They have already been building their own 90-nm production for some time. We will not be the lead microprocessor on this."

Fujitsu said it would build the 90-nm generation of the Efficeon processor family at the Akiruno Technology Center near Tokyo, Japan. Fujitsu began building CPUs based on the technology for its internal server groups earlier this year.

The Efficeon brand is expected to run around speeds of 1GHz and is being marketed for 12- and 14-inch notebooks, Tablet PCs, ultra-personal computers, silent desktops, blade servers and embedded systems.

"There is no question Transmetta went with Fujitsu and their ability to make chips in 90-nm form factors. They did this in order to make sure these chips were on the leading edge and helped them stay ahead of Intel at this point as well as match them once they move to the 90-nm process as well," Creative Strategies president and industry analyst Tim Bajarin told internetnews.com.

Intel has a full roadmap of 90-nm processors including its "Dothan" chip, which is code-name for the successor to Pentium M "Banias." The Dothan chip is expected to support a 2MB power-managed L2 cache and be released by the end of the year. However, Intel has not indicated exactly when. If it is available in December, the first few Dothan-powered notebooks could appear on store shelves as early as January. According to Intel's current roadmap, the company should have 90-nm versions of its Pentium, Xeon and Itanium processors sometime in the second half of 2004.

Transmeta's vice-chairman and chief technology officer Dave Ditzel is scheduled to make a presentation about the Efficeon processor at Microprocessor Forum in San Jose next week prior to the official announcement of the 130-nm version of the processor later that day.



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