Transmeta chip could knock Intel off its perch

Crusoe chip could significantly shake up the processor manufacturing industry and threaten Intel

The revolutionary low-power Crusoe microprocessor from Transmeta could pose a significant threat to Intel's grip on the mobile chip industry, according to an article in the Financial Times (FT) Friday.

The FT concludes that the Crusoe chip could significantly shake up the processor manufacturing industry and could even topple Intel as the number-one maker of chips for portable devices, because of Transmeta's innovative, low-power-consumption technology.

The Crusoe chip will be launched Wednesday 19 January. Mystery has largely shrouded the development of the chip, despite intense interest sparked by the involvement of Linux creator Linus Torvalds. The Transmeta Web page displays nothing more than rather the mysterious message: "We rethought the microprocessor to create a whole new world of mobility."

If the Crusoe is aimed at the world of mobile computing, a far more significant competitor is therefore ARM, which currently leads this sector.

Details of the chip's architecture are sketchy. It is believed to use software to emulate both application code and computer hardware, creating what Transmeta refers to as a "morph host". The chip can supposedly therefore run any software -- including the Windows operating system -- and without having to be redesigned. Because the chip requires far less power than standard Intel chips it would then be ideal for portable devices operating on batteries, while still being able to run standard applications. These are dramatic and as yet unproved claims that would represent a major progression in chip technology.

Torvalds is a partner is Transmeta and discussed the possibilities of the new chip in a keynote at Comdex.

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