SARATOGA, Calif.Secretive startup Transmeta Corp. Wednesday unveiled its microprocessor architecturetwo new CPUs the company claims will rev the market for Internet-based mobile computing devices into high gear.
"We have rethought the microprocessor," crowed company chief executive officer Dave Ditzel at a packed news conference at the Villa Montalvo center here.
The much-hyped announcement sets Transmeta squarely against Intel in the race to dominate the Internet and mobile-computing sectors. Intel Tuesday made a pre-emptive strike against Transmeta, announcing its first "Speed Step" Pentium III processor, running at speeds up to 650 MHz and targeting notebook applications.
Transmeta showed off two specific modelsthe TM3120 and the TM5400of what it said will be a family of very-long-instruction-word (VLIW) processors called Crusoe.
Both chips were described as using "code-morphing" technology developed at Transmeta to translate x86 instructions into software that runs on Crusoe. The company also said it had developed technology, called LongRun, to extend the battery life of Crusoe-based products.
Transmeta's Ditzel said his company had inked an agreement with IBM Corp. to fabricate the devices.
The TM3120 is billed as running at from 333 MHz to 400 MHz. It is equipped with a 96K-byte L1 cache and is packaged in a 474-PIN ball grid array. IBM is already producing the device (however, only Transmeta will sell the part) in its 0.22-micron process technology on a 77-mm die.
The more powerful TM5400, which is currently sampling, runs at from 500 MHz to 700 MHz. It has a 128K-byte L1 cache and a 256K-byte L2 cache. The 73-mm die is fabbed in a 0.18-micron process.
While the 3120 will likely be used solely for Internet appliance, Transmeta is aiming the 5400 at a yet-to-be-developed generation of long-life subnotebook computers. Company officials said they had numerous potential customers, some of whom would release products this year. However, they declined to name any of the firms.
The Crusoe CPUs are also optimized to run a mobile version of the Linux operating system. That elicited much interest at Wednesday's introduction, since Linux creator Linus Torvalds is an employee of Transmeta.
While Transmeta is positioning Crusoe as perhaps the first family of software-based microprocessors, other industry sources added that the chips were impressive, but made use of technologysuch as VLIWthat already exists.
Pricing for the 500- and 700-MHz versions of the TM5400 is $119 and $329. The TM3120 parts will cost $65 (333MHz) and $89 (400MHz).