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Transmeta preps pumped up Crusoe

Plans to outstrip 20% per generation chip performance

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David Ditzel, chief technology officer of low-powered chip maker Transmeta, said the industry would see "much greater" performance improvements than the traditional 20 per cent per silicon generation, when it ships the next version of its Crusoe processor.

The TM5800, which will ship in the second half of this year, will feature processor speeds of greater than 700Mhz, according to Ditzel. It will feature the same 516KB of L2 cache as the TM5600, will is currently available, but will use 0.13 micron processor technology, unlike the 500-667MHz TM5600, which uses older 0.18 micron fabrication techniques.

This performance is lower than the 1GHz benchmark for TM5800 mentioned in its IPO filling last year, but would still offer higher performance on a lower powered chip.

Transmeta believes the TM5800 is small enough to be included in handhelds and, possibly, within 3G phones once they are introduced in 2002.

The processor will feature the next rev of Transmeta's code-morphing software, CMS 4.2, which translates x86 instructions to the VLIW (very long instruction word) instructions that the Crusoe processor can understand.

CMS 4.2 will ship to OEMs in the "next couple of months", according to Ditzel, and will feature technology to lower power consumption and improve battery life.

Together these developments mean by 2002, Transmeta will be shipping Crusoe chips with software that allows them to perform five instructions per processor cycle and consume less than 0.5 Watts in power.

Transmeta sees almost as much potential for this technology in the server and Internet appliance marketplace as for notepads.

In the last couple of months startup companies like Fibrecycle, Rebel and RLX Technologies have announced plans to include Crusoe chips in ultra-dense Internet servers, and Ditzel said it was talking to major server manufacturers.

Speaking at the CeBIT trade show in Hangover, Ditzel wouldn't say who these major server manufacturers were but suggested that IBM, which earlier backed out of producing notepads based on Crusoe, was still evaluating Transmeta technology. Ditzel refused to name names but predicted announcements of servers that he suggested could be eight times as dense as conventional Internet servers.

Ditzel expressed confidence that Transmeta wouldn't be particularly affected by the jitters in the US economy, and claimed that its hardware partners will provide the marketing spending that will push sales of Crusoe.

Most of the ultra-slim notepads Transmeta supplies chips for are targeted at the Japanese market, which is not showing the falloff in demand that that has blighted the US and European PC markets of late. Still we can't help but believe that the long-term success of the firm is tied into whether it can break into the server and Internet appliance markets. ®

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