Success is not guaranteed for Transmeta's Crusoe chip, despite the hype surrounding it and prototype demonstrations by major PC vendors last week.
IBM was one of four vendors demonstrating Crusoe-based notebooks at last week's PC Expo trade show in New York. But the company has stressed that it was just showing a prototype, and that an actual product launch depends on customer demand.
Leo Suarez, program director at IBM, said: "Our engineering team will be validating that we can bring to market this type of machine. We are talking to customers to gauge their interest and, based on a successful engineering design and positive feedback, we will be willing and ready to introduce a Transmeta mini-notebook in the autumn."
IBM said the PC Expo demonstration merely showed its "capability" to launch a Thinkpad 240 based on the processor, but it needed to fine tune the power management circuitry and gauge interest from its customers before launching a product.
Big Blue said that if this demand existed, it would be ready to launch the Crusoe-based Thinkpad by the fourth quarter of this year.
Andy Brown, a senior analyst with IDC, said: "Crusoe has some powerful savings, but demonstrating the technology is slightly different to saying they are definitely bringing out products."
Transmeta also showed notebooks from NEC, Hitachi and Fujitsu, which incorporated its battery-friendly chip. A notebook based on the chip, and weighing around three pounds, could potentially run for eight hours before running out of battery life, compared with only a couple of hours on current high-power ultralight notebooks.
Brown added that it was unlikely that chip giant Intel would allow Transmeta to steal a march on it in the notebook arena.
"Intel's Speedstep technology allows lower clock speed and lower voltage. Surely what Transmeta is offering is not radically different to that. It will all depend on pricing," he said.
"Intel will not make the same mistake it made with AMD's K6-2. It was slow to react with its Celeron chip and allowed AMD to push into the lower end of the market. All Intel has to do is cut its prices dramatically to squeeze [Transmeta] out of the market," he added.
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