RealTime IT News

Transmeta Shrinks Crusoe Chip

Looking to insert its chips into smaller devices, Transmeta Monday introduced two new processors based on its Crusoe core.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based firm said its new TM5700 and TM5900 chips are available in a 21mm x 21mm package, making them good fits for devices like thin clients, blade servers, printers, copiers, point-of-sale terminals, smart displays, portable consumer devices and set-top boxes. Both chips already have begun sampling with Transmeta's customers and will be in production in January 2004.

Transmeta also envisions the chips working in new form factors, such as what the company calls "Ultra Personal Computers" or a "Mobile Computer Core." The latter is a wallet-sized CPU and memory device that can pop in and out of a dummy terminal on a desktop and then be carried around and accessed like a PDA. For these products, the company is working closely with San Francisco-based OQO and Denver-based Antelope Technologies. (Antelope is expected to show off its modular computing device at the CES show in Vegas this week. OQO was expected to ship its first round of products back in September, but still is only taking advance orders.)

The two new processors are a continuation of the company's Crusoe product line. Similar to their TM5800 cousin, the TM5700 and TM5900 chips also run on an 128-bit VLIW (very long instruction word) engine, which issues up to 4 instructions per clock cycle. The Crusoe architecture includes fully integrated on-chip Northbridge core logic, reducing chip count and power requirements and decreasing the size and cost of the PC board. The new processors offer up to 1 GHz of x86-compatible performance and incorporate integer and floating-point execution units, separate 64 Kbyte instruction and data caches, a large 512 Kbyte (TM5900) or 256 Kbyte (TM5700) L2 write-back cache, a 64-bit DDR SDRAM memory controller, and a 32-bit PCI controller. Crusoe chips also use Transmeta's LongRun power management technology to adjust the operating voltage and clock frequency of the processor core based on application demands.

"Transmeta's advantage here is that the Crusoe chips are more efficient at putting power in smaller places," Tim Bajarin, president of research firm Creative Strategies, told InternetNews.com.

Bajarin said Transmeta made Crusoe's mark by powering Compaq's Tablet PCs. "Now the chipmaker can fit into ultra-light laptops and compete with Sony and Sony and Sharp," he said. As for competing with Intel Bajarin said there is no question that Transmeta has caught Intel's attention, although it hasn't necessarily sent a chill down the spine of the No. 1 chipmaker.

"At this stage in the game, say in the next 12 months, in this kind of packaging and format, Transmeta has the market all to themselves," Bajarin said. "If consumer demand for this kind of chip were to pick up significantly, I would almost bet Intel would come out with its low-power chip alternative."

Intel has its own view of the world as far as low-power processors for non-PC forms go. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based behemoth wrote the book on laptops and uses its Pentium family as its core model. The chipmaking giant has turned heads with its strategy of placing Centrino technology in PCs by IBM, Dell, and HP, as well as in Tablet PCs by Gateway, Acer and Motion Computing.

However, Transmeta is counting on its partnerships with Microsoft , which is investing some development time into using the new Crusoes for next-generation devices running Windows Embedded operating systems.

"By delivering a solution that is 50 percent smaller than our existing Crusoe TM5800 processors, Transmeta allows system designers to further leverage the high performance and low-heat dissipation characteristics of Transmeta's proven hardware and software architecture for a wide range of new smaller form-factor, fanless designs," Transmeta president and CEO Matthew Perry said in a statement.

The company also is working on a small form-factor Mini-ITX motherboard evaluation/reference platform based on the TM5900 Processor, which will be available in Q1 2004. It said the platform comes with schematics, design guides, processor specifications, device drivers and all other requirements for evaluation and initiating product designs.

Outside of its Crusoe chips, Transmeta is positioning its TM8000 or "Efficeon" processor for use in a gamut of devices ranging from ultra-light notebooks to high-density blade servers. At the same time, its working with Phoenix Technologies, Silicon Motion and WYSE Technology to ensure market acceptance.