Transmeta, the startup that has the industry buzzing with its forthcoming Crusoe mobile chip, has accused Intel of confusing the market with its latest family of Pentium chips.
On Monday Intel unveiled a range of mobile Pentium III processors, including a 600Mhz chip that uses less than one watt of power using Intel's Speedstep technology, thereby saving laptop battery life.
However, Transmeta said all its chips would consume less than one watt, and criticised Intel for confusing the market with even more Pentium varieties.
A Transmeta spokesman said: "Intel's rollout will be confusing to customers. The large number of Pentiums out on the market are difficult to differentiate. Every incarnation of Crusoe is, and will be, a one-watt processor."
Transmeta is expected to demonstrate Crusoe-based notebooks from six vendors, including IBM, at next week's PC Expo show in New York.
Similar to the function of Intel's Speedstep, Crusoe uses a technology called LongRun which enables it to adjust its operating speed and voltage continuously to match the needs and workload of the application.
"Transmeta's Smart Microprocessor reduces power-burning logic transistors by 75 per cent over the Pentium III architecture. This is something Intel fundamentally cannot copy and so cannot approach Crusoe power levels," claimed the Transmeta spokesman.
Analysts are split as to whether Crusoe will compete head-on with Intel's mobile processors but agree that Transmeta will capture the market for ultra lightweight notebooks weighing around 900g. One original equipment manufacturer is expected to demonstrate a 1.2kg notebook with full DVD capabilities at next week's event.
Martin Reynolds, an analyst at research firm Dataquest, said: "It's clear that Intel is targeting the lower power market and is responding to Crusoe." But consumers are less concerned with battery life than the speed of their systems, which ultimately affects how effective the notebooks are, he added.
"Intel processors are about getting the job done, but Crusoe's advantage is in simple, lighter and smaller notebooks."
Rob Enderle, an analyst at Giga Information Group, said Transmeta and Intel will compete head to head in the market for thin and light systems with large screens that are becoming popular with experienced notebook users. He said Crusoe's technology can extend battery life by up to three times and so is aimed at mobile users, while Intel's processors offer users the performance of desktop machines when their laptops are connected to power stations.
But overall, Enderle believes Intel's latest processors are "significant enough to hold off Transmeta".
Intel's processors are now in full production and systems from original equipment manufacturers including Sony, Dell, Toshiba, IBM and Compaq, are expected over the next few weeks.
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