SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- Advanced Micro Devices Inc. here is discussing various types of cooperation with microprocessor startup Transmeta Corp., including possible technology exchanges for chips serving very low-end consumer PC appliance, according to AMD president Hector de J. Ruiz in an interview.
AMD is also interested in Transmeta's low-power processor technology, which could reduce power consumption of its own Athlon and Duron microprocessors, Ruiz added. AMD itself is developing new Athlon and Duron versions that will cut the present power consumption below 3 watts but Transmeta's technology might be able to cut the level to 1 watt, said Ruiz, who surprised the industry by joining AMD as president in January after heading up Motorola Inc.'s chip business for nearly three years.
In this week's interview, Ruiz said he felt both AMD and Transmeta could benefit by cooperating on a new processor version aimed at the sub-$400 PC market.
"We don't have a good feel for this market," he admitted. "It is so fragmented with various proposed solutions that it's hard to pull our arms around it. Perhaps by looking at the market jointly with Transmeta we can come to undertand it better."
The AMD president's comments came on the same day that Via Technologies Inc. in Taiwan announced an initiative aimed at helping system manufacturers build a new class of PC-like systems that sell for $199 and below. The effort will be described in more detail in September by the Taiwan processor and chip set supplier, which hopes to bridge the gap between full function PCs and so-called information appliances (see Aug. 21 story).
While AMD could get some help from Transmeta, the Sunnyvale company has technology that could aid the Santa Clara, Calif.-based startup, said Ruiz. "Currently, the Transmeta Crusoe effectively runs at 500-MHz and doesn't offer a complete PC solution," said the AMD president. "We might be creative and structure a deal that would benefit both companies."
Ben Anixter, vice president for external relations, said AMD won't move into the new market until it determines what its PC OEM customers want. "The Athlon and Duron core is very flexible and can be moved quicly into this market segment, once we see what customers want," he added.
Anixter also said AMD is interested in talking with Transmeta on technical cooperation for processors aimed at handheld Internet access devices. "We have a second interest in this market -- selling our flash memory for handheld devices," he noted. "Even if we decide not to target a processor for this market, we plan on selling lots o flash memory to it."
--Additional reporting by Mark LaPedus of SBN