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AMD calls on Transmeta to help crack Sledgehammer

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AMD appears to be ready to recruit Transmeta to give its 64-bit Sledgehammer CPU a clear lead over Intel's own server-oriented processor, Itanium.

The deal centres on Transmeta's code-morphing technology - software that converts chunks of object code created for processor A into chip B's native machine language. AMD's plan appears to be to use Transmeta's scheme to map 32-bit x86 instructions onto Sledgehammer's own 64-bit code.

The upshot: rather better backward compatibility and superior performance with legacy apps than Itanic can offer, or so AMD hopes. For its part, Transmeta gets access to the Sledgehammer instruction set, which it can, of course, emulate on top of its own Crusoe CPU line should it wish to do so.

Hints about the licensing deal come from unnamed software developer sources cited by CNet. Such an arrangement is entirely feasible since the two have been talking for some time about bringing Transmeta's power management technology over to AMD's processors.

That the two companies were chatting was confirmed by AMD president Hector Ruiz (see AMD talking to Transmeta - official) last August. The focus then was on developing low-power, appliance and Webpad-oriented chips, but if such talks probed fruitful, it's not difficult to imagine them being extended to other areas, such as Sledgehammer.

All of this follows on from what we heard back in November (see Transmeta helping out AMD, MS with Sledgehammer coding?) that AMD was indeed looking beyond its original line of discussion with Transmeta in order to soup up its Sledgehammer simulator code at Microsoft's behest.

The Beast of Redmond got involved in the AMD-Transmeta partnership after AMD's Athlon-based Sledgehammer simulator (the Linux version was launched last October) package proved something of a dud performance-wise. Cnet's "software developer" source is probably someone well-placed within M$.

That said, Microsoft officially denied knowledge of any AMD-Transmeta team-up, and its stance on Sledgehammer remains firmly on the fence: it hasn't committed itself to porting apps over, but is keeping its options open. ®

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