Crusoe Breaks New Ground

Transmeta unveiled its long awaited, highly secretive 'Crusoe' processor today, as many were on hand to hear what makes the chip as revolutionary as rumors have been speculating. In answer to that question, the company revealed that it is the first processor that can be upgraded via the Internet.

Using new Code-Morphing Software developed at Transmeta, the Crusoe chip translates normal processing instructions into very long instruction words (VLIW), which allows the new chips to run thousands of programs that have already been written for the Intel processor. The Crusoe is also capable of 128-bit instruction, as opposed to Intel processors only able to handle 32-bit instruction.

Software translation of instructions makes this processor capable of running virtually any operating system on the market. It currently supports Linux, Windows 95 and 98, Windows NT, and Windows 2000. Since the software is developed independently from the physical processor, the clock-speed can be increased via an Internet download.

Transmeta developed a special Mobile Linux targeted towards, and optimized for use with Internet appliances such as the Web Pad seen at the Consumer Electronics Show. The company says is not however, designed for mobile phones or handheld devices such as the Palm Pilot. Linus Torvalds, the pioneer of Linux who now works for Transmeta, developed the software along with other engineers.

Aimed at the mobile computing and Internet appliance market, the Crusoe processor uses groundbreaking technology to lower power consumption and hence, increase battery life. Its power management system ‘LongRun’, which was developed at Transmeta, works by varying the clock speeds depending on what the system requires at the time, thus decreasing battery consumption.

Both models premiering this year run on a single watt of power, and the system features a deep sleep mode, which will keep your computer running using a mere 20 milowatts of power.

Through the use of its software that makes the processor "smart", the Crusoe processor is able to learn about your system and each application. As it learns, it uses that knowledge to make your system more power efficient, and save battery power. It can also learn to weed out redundant instruction and processes, enabling your system to load and run programs more rapidly.

The 0.22-micron model (TM3120), with clock speeds ranging from 333MHz - 400MHz will cost from $65, up to $89. The 0.18-micron model (TM5400), will vary in speed from 500MHz - 700MHz model retailing for between $119 and $329. Consumers can expect to see appliances with the processors in them sometime soon, followed by mobile systems mid-year, which are expected to cost between $1200 and $1500.

Based in Santa Clara, California, the start-up has been developing its new processors for the past five years, and has been previewing Crusoe since last year. While Transmeta did say that there are companies with the product already in hand, they declined to say exactly who.

Transmeta has been extremely silent when commenting on the Crusoe processor. In November of 1999, the company told reporters that on today, January 19, 2000, they would reveal the secret behind the revolutionary processor. In front of an anxiously awaiting crowd, the many questions surrounding the Crusoe chip were answered. And the way consumers view processing was changed.

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