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Transmeta aims X86 processor at embedded systems

Posted: 09 Jan 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:transmeta? crusoe? x86 processor? crusoe special embedded processor? crusoe se?

Transmeta Corp. has unveiled the X86-compatible Crusoe processor to the embedded market, where its relatively small size and low power consumption give it an edge. The move marks an expansion for Transmeta beyond its core market in notebook computers and servers, where it continues a head-to-head battle against Intel Corp. for design wins and profitability.

The Crusoe Special Embedded (SE) processors are versions of Transmeta's existing Crusoe 5500 and 5800 microprocessors that have undergone a 24-hour burn-in testing process that rates them for 10 years of operation at temperatures up to 100C.

Transmeta is also guaranteeing five years of availability and support. The company's embedded effort started when Matt Perry, who managed the Maverick MP3 chip group at Cirrus Logic Inc., joined Transmeta as president in April 2002.

"It has been under the covers since Matt arrived. He had more of an embedded systems background," said Tom Lee, director for embedded business development at Transmeta.

The SE chips are sampling now at speed grades of 667MHz, 800MHz, and 933MHz, with prices starting at $50 each in 1,000 units. The 667MHz Crusoe SE is essentially the current 5500 processor, and the 800MHz and 933MHz SEs are the 5800 parts. The chips come in standard and low-power versions. The standard 667MHz CPU consumes 6.1W, while the low-power version consumes 5.1W.

The company is currently developing a version of the Crusoe's internal software to boost real-time performance; those parts will ship later this year. Transmeta would not reveal target latency figures for those processors, but Lee said he does not expect they will meet so-called hard real-time requirements that demand latency as low as 20ms. Transmeta is also exploring future versions of the SE that will be rated for temperatures below 0C with current versions.

OS and BIOS support is currently available from a host of companies, including Microsoft, LynuxWorks, MontaVista Software, QNX Software and Phoenix Technologies. "The nice thing about being X86 compatible is that most of this stuff just works as it is out of the box today," said Lee.

Transmeta lists some 15 design wins for existing Crusoe processors in embedded boards and systems. Lee declined to provide sales expectations for SE, though a Transmeta press release said Gespac SA, Tri-M Systems and Engineering Inc., and TransLink USA are among the companies that plan to ship new designs with the SE parts in 2003.

"The PC/104 board small form factor represents a major market for us. Today those boards are using 200MHz Pentium II processors, but the SE allows them to boost performance without requiring more board space or a CPU fan," said Lee.

In recent statements, Transmeta has promised to reach profitability by the end of 2003. However, the company has been hemorrhaging cash to date.

Once Silicon Valley's hottest and most secretive startup, Transmeta has struggled for survival during the industry downturn. It posted a loss of about $171 million on sales of about $35 million in fiscal 2001, up from revenues of $16 million and losses of $97 million in 2000.

The company estimated it had about $130 million in cash reserves in December 2002. It expects to ship a 256-bit TM8000 processor in Q3 2003.

- Rick Merritt

EE Times

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