Transmeta came to London today for the European launch of its Crusoe microprocessor, which it claims will reduce the cost and power consumption of mobile devices.
The Silicon Valley based company, whose developers include Linus Torvalds, launched the chip at the end of January following several years of secrecy.
Today the company revealed that several European engineers contributed to Crusoe's development. Transmeta chief executive Dave Ditzel said the company has developers in Ireland and Spain, as well as the US and Japan.
The Crusoe chip family, which took four and a half years to develop, is based on a new approach to chip design using software to implement many functions that traditionally are implemented by hardware.
The software - dubbed code morphing software - is based on a Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW) silicon engine which provides compatibility by 'morphing' (translating x86 instructions) to the underlying hardware engine.
Ditzel said: "A combination solution of both hardware and software means simpler hardware chips. It's easier to design, you can have smaller design teams so it costs less, and you don't need to worry about each chip iteration being compatible."
He added: "In addition, it burns less power so it runs cooler. And as the software can learn as it runs, it's the first smart processor."
The company announced two chips, which are the beginning of the Crusoe family of products - the TM3120 which will run at up to 400Mhz, and the TM5400 which runs at up to 700Mhz.
The TM5400 is aimed at laptop computers running Windows, while the TM3120 is designed for portables and webpad devices running a mobile version of Linux.
Ditzel said that Linux author Linus Torvalds has been working with Transmeta on the mobile version of Linux, which will have certain advantages for mobile users.
"[Mobile Linux] is basically standard Linux with some new features," he said.
"It has power management features which take advantage of Crusoe's low power features. It has a compressed memory file system so programs only take half the space, and is designed for diskless operation, which saves costs, weight and size."
Ditzel said mobile devices running the OS based on the Crusoe chip would have enough power to do things like voice recognition.
"Battery life and weight will dominate purchase decisions for mobile users. If our chip runs 10 per cent slower you can still get your job done, but if your battery dies you can't do anything," he said.
He added that when running, Crusoe generates about one watt of power, compared to between 15 and 20 watts from standard Pentium processors. In standby it generates about 20 milliwatts.
The TM3120 is in production now and has been distributed to major OEMs for assessment. The TM5400 is due to go into production in the second half of this year.
Diamond Multimedia, recently bought by S3, has already said it will use Crusoe in its forthcoming webpad and Transmeta executives said they expect more, similar announcements to follow shortly.
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