Transmeta mulls server move

Transmeta plans a processor with twice the instruction width of today's chips, as Toshiba jumps aboard the bandwagon with a Crusoe-based Libretto
Written by Guy Kewney, Contributor

Transmeta plans a processor with twice the instruction width of today's chips, as Toshiba jumps aboard the bandwagon with a Crusoe-based Libretto

Transmeta, famous for producing the chips in the lowest-power notebooks, is on the brink of announcing that it is moving into servers.

Founder David Ditzel also announced that one of his biggest shareholders -- Toshiba -- is about to move into the club of Crusoe-using manufacturers. Toshiba joined the club on Monday, with the announcement that it would build a Libretto ultra-light notebook in Japan.

The Libretto will ship in Japan on 18 May with a 600MHz Crusoe processor, a 10in SXGA TFT screen and a 10GB hard disk. Transmeta said it would have a 4.5 hour battery life with an extra battery bringing the total to 14 hours.

Speaking before the Toshiba announcement, Ditzel told an audience at the NetEvents preview sessions before Networld+Interop, that he was still very "excited" about his latest notebook win with Casio -- the darling of the Tokyo's technology shops.

He also squashed suggestions that his founding sponsors, IBM and Toshiba, had lost faith in his Crusoe chip.

"Those rumours were put about when we were doing our IPO, and were unable to make comments either about IBM or Toshiba's plans, or our own; we were in the 'quiet period' where we were prohibited from making public comments that might affect the share price," said Ditzel. Toshiba's Monday announcement appeared to back up his claims.

Meanwhile the Casio notebook is one he described as "almost a cult item in Japan, because of its ability to boot either Windows or Linux. It's the only one out in the front of the stores in Tokyo. It's more of a consumer oriented product than other ones. It weighs 990g, has a 20GB disk and 128MB of DRAM. We get nine hours battery life, and it's only 21mm thin. It's far more powerful than my desktop."

Ditzel also rolled out some of his roadmap for the next year, promising a machine with twice the instruction width of today's 128-bit processor chip. "We will launch a very long instruction word (VLIW) processor 256 bits wide next year," he predicted.

The future, he said, lay with devices like Microsoft's Tablet PC, which is going to use Windows XP as its base operating system. "They are doing what Xerox did with the Alto design; they aren't going for something that can be built cheaply today. They're designing something that will do things you can't do today, but will be inspiring design ideas for the future."

Ditzel added: "It's the same people who did the Alto work. Microsoft has hired Chuck Thacker and Butler Lamson, who say it is the most exciting project they've worked on since Alto."

The fact that it's XP based, said Ditzel, means that it is essential for the industry to recognise the X86 architecture as the way forward.

"The x86 architecture, like it or not, is going to be the standard architecture for the Internet. Microsoft tried, with NT, to move to other platforms -- the Alpha and MIPS -- and failed. It is just not likely that anybody else can establish a non-X86 architecture if all the resources of Microsoft couldn't do it," he said.

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