Transmeta could face Intel legal challenge

Clean room technology won't stop pleaders

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Transmeta may have surfed through most of the tough questions raised yesterday – about bugs (yes folks – potentially, there'll be twice as many) – compatibility and performance, but what about Chipzilla itself? There hasn’t been an Intel clone which hasn’t raised the attention of the Santa Clara lawyers, and some of these have kept us entertained for years at a time. But Transmeta seems braced for the prospect. “You can’t stop them suing you,” an executive told us. “But we’ve built a clean room processor, and we don’t have ex-Intel employees working for us.” Are they sure, we wonder? In any case, here at The Register we fancy Intel will prefer to deploy old-fashioned FUD, and this is where the mere prospect of Intel litigation could be far more powerful than radioactive WordPerfect attachments. This threat will be most powerful between now and the summer – when the faster, PC notebook Crusoe TM5400 seriously begins to ramp. If you’re an OEM, planning a new product line is always expensive – and not half so when it means cannibalising your own lucrative Intel/AMD mobile lines, which regardless of any SpeedStep wizardry, may suddenly look like a poor buy. And the more you have invested in Chipzilla silicon, the more you’ll have to lose – just ask Michael Dull, of Texan assembler the Dull Computer Company. So where’s it likely to fall? We suspect the most likely candidate will be Intel’s Added Value instruction sets. Recalling the trouble AMD had in supporting MMX instructions – it belatedly had to negotiate a license – SIMD could prove a tougher nut to crack. Rather ominously Intel here describes SIMD as 'The Future of Programming Technology' – and stop smirking at the back, there. And right now Crusoe – or more accurately, the two initial versions Crusoe’s application-facing software engine the CMS – supports MMX but not SIMD. At its coming out party, Transmeta’s CEO Dave Ditzel said Transmeta was "examining SIMD closely". We’re sure it is. As FUD goes, lack of SIMD compatibility could run and run. Of course we know that bugger all actually uses SIMD, but much of the launch presentation played up Windows compatibility and the performance and compatibility of browser plug-ins. It even went to the trouble of citing Chipzilla’s Craig Miller – director of the home products group – "StrongARM is headed is to power-sensitive applications ... we’re striving for a platform that doesn’t compromise on plug-in support." While only boy racers may fret over the small Crusoe performance hit over top of the range Intel processors, no one wants a crippled web experience now, do they? ® Transmeta launch coverage A Linux, Transmeta Web-enabled Diamond Rio for CeBIT? Transmeta could face Intel legal challenge No home for Rambus at Transmeta Transmeta OS tweaking auction Transmeta chips to run Linux, Windows, attack Intel x86

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