Startup chip maker Transmeta will lay down its most serious challenge yet to market leader Intel when it debuts a selection of corporate notebooks running its Crusoe chip later this month.
IBM is one vendor that has said it will demo a Transmeta-based notebook at the PC Expo show in New York, while Compaq and Gateway, both investors in the microprocessor maker, are also expected to do the same.
Transmeta was founded five years ago by a former Sun Microsystems employee but shot into the limelight when it recruited Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux. Crusoe was announced amid industry fanfare in January as a rival to processors from Intel. Both Gateway and AOL are among a group of investors that have injected $88m into the young chip manufacturer.
Some of the models on show at PC Expo will be prototypes and some will be in production, said Transmeta. IBM is planning to demonstrate a Thinkpad notebook based on a Transmeta processor. The Thinkpad will only be a technology demonstration, but an IBM spokeswoman said the company is considering offering Transmeta-based models in the fourth quarter of this year.
IBM's micro-electronics unit has been manufacturing Transmeta's Crusoe line of low-power processors. In January, Transmeta announced two Crusoe processors. Transmeta's 3000 family is largely designed for internet devices, which will use Linux. The 5000 family will go into notebooks, which will run on Windows.
According to Brian Hurst, director of worldwide sales for Transmeta, the chip maker will shortly release three new processors to its range: the 3300 and the 3400, which will be aimed at the appliance market, and a 5600 for use in notebooks.
If the Transmeta-based notebooks take off they could pose a significant threat to Intel, which has dominated the market for PC silicon since 1997. Since then, AMD has made a name for itself at the high-performance end with its Athlon processor, and Via Technologies has become a chipset competitor connecting the PC to the rest of the computer while Transmeta is now making a foray into the business market.
First International Computer will also be showing its Aqua Web Pad, which is based on a Crusoe 3200 processor, at PC Expo and has said that the product will enter volume production by November.
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