Transmeta has won a major foothold in the corporate market, with Fujitsu choosing its chips to power 12,000 laptops that will be used by a Japanese insurance company.
All employees of Taiyo Life Insurance's sales force will use the laptops,
which will be distributed starting Monday. The systems will be used by
salespeople on the road, selling insurance, calculating rates and generating maps
for driving to customer sites, said Jim Chapman, Transmeta's senior vice
president of sales and marketing.
Transmeta makes chips that work in a way similar to those from Intel. The company argues
that its Crusoe chips, when combined with technology that balances CPU power
consumption with actual computing demand, give small laptops a battery life
of eight hours. But Transmeta has had trouble getting established in the
The deal with Taiyo and Fujitsu, announced today in Japan, is a shot in the
arm for Transmeta, which hopes corporate adoption will help it expand from
its current Japanese customer base to the United States. Intel still
largely has a lock on the corporate market, where buyers are more cautious
about adopting new technology.
"In Japan, we're popular with consumers. In the U.S., I think it's going to
be corporate," Chapman said in a telephone interview from Japan. The
rationale: busy executives on airplanes need every ounce of battery life
they can get, and employees on the road or connected to wireless networks
can't afford to be tethered by a power cord.
Transmeta, based in Santa Clara, Calif., has begun three corporate "seeding"
programs in the United States, getting companies to try out Transmeta-based
systems, Chapman said.
But cracking the U.S. market will be tough without the backing of the top
computer sellers, such as IBM and Dell, that are most popular with big
business customers, said IDC analyst Roger
"I do think they need to get into the top tier," Kay said. "In large
enterprises, Intel is still pretty much the orthodoxy."
Individual buyers such as home customers or company honchos looking for
"executive jewelry" might in some ways be an easier sell for Transmeta, Kay
added. "It's easier to convince an individual consumer to buy a box than to
convince a whole organization to buy one," he said.
But Chapman believes U.S. consumers are interested less in superlightweight
notebooks where Transmeta's chips are found than in comparatively bulky but
full-featured "desktop replacements."
In Japan, Transmeta has a good corporate presence through its partnerships
with Fujitsu and NEC, the equivalents there of IBM and Dell, Chapman said.
And Transmeta Chief Technology Officer Dave Ditzel has said models with
built-in video cameras are popular with insurance companies.
The Fujitsu systems sold to Taiyo weigh about 2.2 pounds and are smaller
than typical laptops sold in the U.S. They use Transmeta's Crusoe 5400 CPUs
running at 533MHz.
Intel has responded to Transmeta's threat by "firing off a pretty good
broadside of low-voltage (chips). They're not going to make life easy for
Transmeta," Kay said. But as demonstrated by AMD's strength with its Athlon
chip, now is a good time to take on Intel.
"There's an openness to alternative suppliers that wasn't there in the past," Kay