After a dazzling IPO -- which was folllowed by equally high-profile problems -- microprocessor company Transmeta thinks it will be able to hold off the might of Intel, even though the latter is also targeting the mobile computing market where power efficiency is crucial.
Both Intel and Transmeta recognise that there will be considerable demand for mobile and wireless devices that last a working day without having to be recharged. Transmeta essentially launched to address this market and Intel has recently been talking up its chances there, especially with a chip code-named Banias due in the first half of next year.
Speaking to silicon.com, Transmeta chief executive Matthew Perry said: "It's always flattering when a great semiconductor company follows your lead but we're three to four years ahead. Don't get me wrong, they've done some great engineering but Banias is basically a Pentium III with a few hundred PowerPoint slides to say it's not."
However, an Intel spokesman said: "Banias has been built from the ground up, looking at the trade-off between performance and battery life."
Brian Gammage, Gartner principal analyst, said: "They're both correct. Logically, there is a degree of the Pentium III family (in Banias) but electronically, it has been built from the ground up. The real test for Transmeta is about design wins and what they can bring to market over the next six months."
On a whistle-stop tour of Europe, where his company now has a sales presence, Transmeta chief executive Perry was talking up the company he has headed for just six months. He said he is happy with the move away from IBM Microelectronics chip-making facilities to TSMC in Taiwan -- even though the move initially meant costly product delays.
Transmeta Crusoe processors are now found in notebook PCs from seven out of the top 10 Japanese manufacturers, and four out of the top 10 worldwide.
A 1GHz Crusoe processor will power an HP tablet PC -- an important design win and an area where Banias also hopes to succeed. Although Transmeta has won contracts from NEC for 'noise-free' desktops and several 'blade' server makers -- because of the chips' power efficiency and amount of heat they give off -- the company will concentrate on the wireless and mobile markets.
Transmeta is also looking at the embedded market and an emerging sector for so-called ultra PCs, as pioneered by San Francisco start-up OQO, IBM and several firms in the Far East.
The company still has its work cut out. It has almost halved its workforce this year and prominent analysts at Morgan Stanley, for example, the bank which led the Transmeta IPO, have questioned execution.
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