TechXNY: Crusoe squeezes into Meta Pad spinoff

Transmeta scores twice: Antelope's Mobile Computer Core will use the Crusoe chip, and Transmeta has signed up its first Europe-based laptop manufacturer

Antelope, a company that makes mobile computing devices for niche markets, said on Wednesday that it will use Transmeta's Crusoe TM5800 in an upcoming device based on IBM's "Meta Pad" technology, a device the size of a PDA that morphs into a desktop computer.

The deal is a win for Transmeta, which is aiming to extend its reach beyond the laptop computer market. Transmeta said in April that the same chip will power a PDA-sized device from start-up OQO that runs Windows XP.

Transmeta also announced its first deal with a Europe-based laptop manufacturer, Austria's Gericom.

The design of Antelope's Mobile Computer Core (MCC), the name of Antelope's basic computer, is derived from the Meta Pad, a hand-size computer prototype shown off earlier this year by IBM. Antelope is licensing the Meta Pad design from IBM but will configure and adapt it to fit business markets and specific applications, said an Antelope representative.

The MCC is designed to run a desktop operating system such as Windows or Linux and serves as the core of either a handheld computer or, with display and peripherals attached, a desktop system. Antelope says the design saves time by eliminating the need to transfer data between two devices.

Transmeta's chips are better for such portable devices because they consume less power and emit less heat than conventional chips from AMD or Intel, Antelope said. "The Crusoe microprocessor is instrumental in providing our Mobile Computer Core with long battery life, low heat output and high performance operation," stated Antelope president Kenneth Geyer. The device is to begin shipping in September.

Although it is still unclear whether businesses or other customers will take to these machines, small computing is growing, advocates say. At the TechXNY trade show in New York this week, established PC and consumer-electronics giants are showing off two new types of Microsoft-centric devices: the tablet PC, a full-fledged computer that resembles a portable screen and runs a specialised version of Windows, and Mira, a portable screen that connects to the Internet via a home PC.

Transmeta also introduced the first Crusoe-powered laptop from a European manufacturer, the Gericom A2, running on an 800MHz Crusoe TM5800 chip. The 3.5-pound, one-inch-thick laptop will ship in Europe in the third quarter of 2002, Transmeta said. Gericom was the third-largest notebook supplier to the German market in the first quarter of 2002, according to Dataquest.

Transmeta emulates the x86 architecture used in AMD and Intel processors with a process it calls "code-morphing", which allows the chips to achieve comparable performance to mainstream chips while consuming less power. The Crusoe chips were considered a serious threat to Intel's mobile business when they launched in early 2000, but Intel has held its ground by improving the power-management technology of its own chips.

Crusoe has achieved most of its success in Japan, but is now appearing in notebooks in the UK and the US. In Europe, Crusoe-based notebooks include devices from Sony, NEC and PaceBlade.

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