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Wednesday, 19 January, 2000, 18:05 GMT
New chip is fast mover

Transmeta are likely to design but not manufacture the chip Transmeta are likely to design but not manufacture the chip


By BBC News Online's Damian Carrington

Transmeta, the secretive computer chip company, have come out into the open with two new chips "explicitly designed for mobile computing".

One of the new processors appears to compete directly with the traditional chips placed in laptop computers. The second is designed for smaller devices devoted to web browsing.

Transmeta team
Linus Torvalds, creator of the operating system Linux which is starting to rival those of Microsoft
CEO Dave Ditzel, formerly chief architect at Sun Microsystems
Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder
George Soros, billionaire financier
The launch of the Crusoe chips was preceded by significant hype, largely because of the heavy-hitting staff line-up.

Launching the chips, CEO David Ditzel explained that the chips were the first to serve instructions to the chip entirely by software. This, he said, meant the chip could be "very simple, very fast and use extremely low power".

Deep sleep

The TM3120 chip is aimed at portable web browsers - a simple, small, touch-activated screen was on display at the news conference. The processor runs at 400MHz, has 100kb of on-chip RAM and has a power management system called Deep Sleep. This allows the device to run in standby mode for weeks, it was claimed.

The second chip, the TM5400, is designed for laptop computers. It runs at 700MHz and has 400kb of on-chip RAM.

Mr Ditzel said: "Most chips in mobile computers today were designed for servers or PCs - they have just been crammed into smaller boxes."

He also announced a partnership with IBM and that the company had appointed staff in Taiwan and Japan, where most chip manufacture takes place.

According to Transmeta, the Crusoe chip promises light devices, which can access the web from anywhere and use all the plug-ins and applications which are found there. They also promise long battery life.

If, as further details emerge, this turns out to be well-founded then consumers may be able to look forward to mobile internet devices as portable as mobile telephones.

Pre-emptive strike

On Tuesday, Intel launched a pre-emptive strike with their own new set of chips designed for mobile computers. It says its 650 megahertz chip is the most powerful processor ever in a laptop and can step down its processor speed to save power when running on batteries.

The more powerful Crusoe appears to outstrip the Intel chip but Intel's share price held steady in New York.

In contrast, shares in ARM Holdings dropped by about 7% in London on Wednesday. The chip design company has significant chip interests in "portable communications, hand-held computing and embedded solutions".

However, Andrew Griffin, an analyst at Merrill Lynch, told BBC News Online that the type of chip architecture Transmeta has developed is very unlike the ARM architecture.

"I think it's unlikely they will be playing in the same space," he said. "I think the share price fall in ARM is unwarranted - it's actually a good time to buy ARM stock."

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See also:
18 Jan 00 |  Business
Intel forges chip alliance
30 Nov 99 |  Sci/Tech
Fastest PC chip unveiled
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Pentium III bug in new chips
25 Oct 99 |  The Company File
Intel deal boosts chip firm
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Free software taking on Microsoft
07 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
IBM to build supercomputer

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