Crusoe chip gets first suitor

It didn't take long for the Crusoe to be noticed and S3 reckons it knows just where to put the nifty little chip. Will Knight reports

The first consumer product based on the Crusoe microprocessor from Transmeta will be announced in the US Thursday by consumer technology firm S3. A day after its much hyped launch, the new chip, riding high on the wave of publicity generated by the involvement of Linus Torvalds', has been tipped to appear in a variety of upcoming devices, including PDAs.

S3, which bought Diamond Multimedia last year, is perhaps better known for its work with video cards and MP3 players, but has reacted swiftly to the arrival of the Crusoe processor and plans to reveal designs for a mobile "Web pad" featuring the revolutionary new software-based chip.

According to an S3 press release, the Web pad will be targeted at "consumers looking for an x86 compatible, Linux-based Internet computing solution". The Web pad is expected to cost between $500 -- $1000 (£300 -- £600). It is not clear whether the device will run operating systems other than Linux and a time frame has not been given.

The Crusoe CPU is designed from the ground-up with power consumption in mind. Dynamic speed consumption allows it to maintain application performance whilst running longer at a cooler temperature. The Crusoe also uses code-morphing software to interpret commands passed by software to ordinary Intel processors which, among other things, enables the chip to run on a variety of platforms. No independent benchmarks are yet available.

According to initial reports, Diamond's "Web pad" will use the lower end 3120 Crusoe microprocessor, which costs between $65 and $85 to produce and consumes around 1 watt when running and just 0.15 watts when idle. Intel desktop processors commonly consume between 8 and 10 watts.

Chief technology officer at S3, Andy Wolfe is delighted to steal some of Transmeta's considerable thunder: "Through partnering with technology leaders, such as Transmeta, S3 is focused on building a sustainable leadership position in emerging high-growth markets such as video, audio, home appliances, home networking and Internet appliances."

According to Keith Diefendorff, editor-in-chief of the US chip specialist Microprocessor Report, the Crusoe and future iterations of the design could soon make their way into hand held computers such as Palm Pilots or Psions. "There are a number of potentials for this technology," he says. "There's no reason why it couldn't be used in things like Palm Pilots or any sort of PDA, although they haven't announced anything like that yet. There could be a lot of interesting products in the future."

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