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Transmeta Technology

Where is Transmeta Heading? 192

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the change-of-plans dept.
Autoversicherung writes "Transmeta, once the darling of Silicon Valley, employer of Linus Torvalds and heralded as the new Intel is facing bleak times. Having $53.7 million in cash and short-term investments in its coffers, enough for just under two quarter's worth of operations and a reported net loss of $28.1 million and revenues of $11.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2004 the company's future is everything but certain. Will the planned restructuring to a pure IP company help?"
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Where is Transmeta Heading?

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  • Help .... who? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:00PM (#12120204) Journal
    Isn't this how many technologies make it to the consumer? Company A invents it, goes broke trying to sell it, then the big players buy it cheap and finally the rest of us get to use it?

    Oh, except for that famed 50+ mpg engine....
    • The car I had when I was a student would do 50mpg.

      It was made in 1969.
      • 1980s diesel vw rabbits and the CRX HF (mid eighties I think) would both do about 50 mpg. Today, VW Jetta and Golf TDIs will get about 50 mpg and actually have decent performance. Not even going to go into hybrids, which I don't like much anyway.
    • Isn't this how many technologies make it to the consumer? Company A invents it, goes broke trying to sell it, then the big players buy it cheap and finally the rest of us get to use it?

      "The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
  • by geminidomino (614729) * on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:00PM (#12120208) Journal
    <MODE=cynical>

    That would mean that it would be in their best interests to support stupid laws like copyright-until-the-heat-death-of-the-universe laws and software patents.

    Kind of a delicious irony there... employing Linus and striving to hamstring Linux...
    • by aldoman (670791) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:28PM (#12120340) Homepage
      I think they mean more selling chip layouts to other companies for manufacture.

      This is going to be a huge industry. If they could produce, say, a 800MHz CPU which ran on 1W or 0.5W of power and had sensible float performance, it could easily sell exceedingly well.

      There must be millions upon millions of devices that require more than just PIC-level performance but low power consumption. Things like digital TV decoders -- the video itself can be decoded with a seperate chip but the amount of interactivity that will be delivered in the future is going to be immense.
      • ARM completely owns this industry. Their IP is everywhere. They're in gameboys, they're in PDAs, they're in network applicances. Low power consumption, cheap price, great toolchains, and wide support.

        The embedded tree is something like this:

        PLD (22V10 devices)

        Low power MCU (Atmel AVR, Microchip PIC)

        Mid-range (8051; Upstart Rabbitcore; Motorola CPUS)

        High range (ARM baby, Nat Semi's Geode is in here too)

        From there you move into things like the motorola G4 architecture, via's C3, intels pentium M, etc.

        T
      • >> This is going to be a huge industry. If they could produce, say, a 800MHz CPU which ran on 1W or 0.5W of power and had sensible float performance, it could easily sell exceedingly well.

        800MHz is a useless number. It says nothing about performance.

        Anyway, if there is such a huge market, don't you think Intel or AMD or 30 or so other semiconductor companies would have something to deliver to that market? What's so special about Transmeta other than the fact that they used to employ Linus? Their
    • It's not really that ironic. If they would be employing RMS, then that would be Ironic, but Mr. Torvalds is not really against proprietary software, he actually uses propritetary software, and gives a shit about users freedom. He just used the Free Software comunity to get his project done. He really doesn't care about our philosofy.
      • but Mr. Torvalds is not really against proprietary software, he actually uses propritetary software, and gives a shit about users freedom. He just used the Free Software comunity to get his project done. He really doesn't care about our philosofy.

        And you obviously are quoting him from...?

        It's amazing how people manages to twist things. Linus has repeatdly explained why he uses propietary software, and I don't remember him saying "it was because I hate open source". Sight...
        • I Said he gives a shit about FREE SOFTWARE. Free Software IS NOT THE SAME as Open Source. Free Software is a movement started by RMS More than 20 years ago, that deffends the FREEDOM of the users of Computers. Open Source is a movement started allmost a decade later than Free Software, by Linus Torvalds & Co. in order to STEAL the efforts of the Free Software movement, forgeting the ethical reasons that created GNU, leaving ONLY the practical advantages of the development model created by Free Software.
          • Linus Torvalds didn't start Open Source; he hasn't "stolen" anything; Linux is Free Software; and you are a stupid fuck.
          • Open Source is a movement started allmost a decade later than Free Software, by Linus Torvalds & Co. in order to STEAL the efforts of the Free Software movement, forgeting the ethical reasons that created GNU, leaving ONLY the practical advantages of the development model created by Free Software.

            Oh, I see. So they're the "evil guys". IOW, if you don't give a shit about free software, RMS and GNU, automatically you're (for some reason I can't guess) not defending users' freedom.

            Go read some histor
        • Ok, here's a direct quote of one Mr. Linus Torvalds from a little movie called RevolutionOS (paraphrased):

          "Think of Richard Stallman as the great philosopher, and think of me as the
          engineer,"
      • True, but as much as I hate to admit it, Linux is the main OS of the FOSS movement, and the one that's most visibly wounded by such stupid laws.

        But as someone below pointed out, it may not be ironic because Linus may not work there anymore. (Dunno how good his info is. #include <stdDisclaimer>)
    • employing Linus and striving to hamstring Linux...

      They don't employ Linus anymore. He's moved to OSDL.
  • Willies (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shirai (42309) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:01PM (#12120210) Homepage
    Quote: Will the planned restructuring to a pure IP company help?

    Does anybody else get the willies (shades of SCO) just hearing this? Okay, I admit it's a little knee-jerk but how many successful, in the contributes to society domain, strictly IP companies are there?
    • Re:Willies (Score:5, Informative)

      by Will Fisher (731585) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:10PM (#12120264)
      ARM is a strictly IP company and is very successful. Its processors are used in many, many embedded applications. Eg, most cellphones, the gameboy DS, the iPod, hard disk microcontrollers, microcontrollers in cars, PDAs, etc etc. They recieved royalties for over 1 billion units last year. ARM cores are everywhere.

      The difference is that ARM has always been an IP only company, ever since it was spun out of Acorn computers.
    • Not at all the same thing. Transmeta creates IP. SCO just buys up old unwanted IP, and tries to make it pay by claiming that successful products are based on that IP.
    • Wouldn't it be cool if SCO buys (with MSFT money) Transmeta, and then they claim that Linus wrote, while at Transmeta, the linux kernel, so it's rightfully theirs? :-))
    • Re:Willies (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Okay, I admit it's a little knee-jerk but how many successful, in the contributes to society domain, strictly IP companies are there?

      Thousands. What are you talking about?

      Here's one: Coca-Cola. They don't make it or bottle it or distribute Coke (bottlers do that). They license it, research it, and market it.

      So what's your point? Other than you need to read something besides Slashdot before you want to shoot your mouth off about business?

  • by winkydink (650484) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:02PM (#12120214) Homepage Journal
    then bye-bye
    • No IP company can exist off of a single idea for very long. IP companies have to innovate continuously in order to survive. Any given piece of IP they own will eventually be copied or sold, or the market for it will simply dry up for any number of reasons. The fact that Transmeta has not come up with anything significant since their initial "big thing" leads me to believe they're going to have a very hard time surviving as an IP company for very long.
  • employer of Linus Torvalds - so? Maybe Linus is a superstar but he is not a hardware engineer. How many other people, including hardware engineers does the company employ?
    • Re:L.T. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jmb-d (322230)
      IIRC, the "interesting" thing about the Transmeta chips was that they did a lot of things differently than other chips out there.

      Things such as very low power consumption (important for mobile/embedded computing), cooler operation (same application), and some very nifty things in software (within the chip, not at the OS level), allowing them to run x86 instructions while being a very different architecture underneath.

      It is my understanding that Linus was there because of that last point -- the software.
      • Re:L.T. (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        x86 processors have been translating x86 instructions into different internal formats--with limited reprogrammability in the form of microcode--since the Pentium Pro.

        It wasn't the promise of translating complex x86 instructions into simpler instructions that could be executed quickly and with low power consumption that was the big deal, it was the never-materialized promise that Transmeta chips would be able to run programs for multiple platforms at the same time with high performance. Specifically the hyp
    • -1 Troll? - the troll moderators at work.
    • Maybe Linus is a superstar but he is not a hardware engineer. How many other people, including hardware engineers does the company employ?

      Gimme a break; this is just a fact and an honest question, not a troll. Mods: stop smoking crack, please.

      PS - A quick stop to Yahoo Finance, company profile for TMTA, would have told you there were 296 employees at last count, and save you getting modded down by the misguided zealots.
    • Linus's original reason for writing Linux was to learn about the 386. Much of the original linux code was x86 assembly, and he knew the chip very well. Transmeta needed people who knew the x86 platform very well in order to write emulation software for it.
  • by linux_haxor (865561) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:04PM (#12120228)
    Transmeta must follow the example of another IP only company SCO and begin claiming ownership of everything and sueing everying in site before they run out of cash
  • not another one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FidelCatsro (861135) <fidelcatsroNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:04PM (#12120234) Journal
    "Will the planned restructuring to a pure IP company help?"
    We do not need another Patent acruing company trying to screw with the tech econmy , Fair enough they jmay have good intentions now with this action but how long before "just this one" mentality takes over and they start sueing left right and center.
    If they would like to become a research company working for others to develop tech , then fair enough but not an IP company .
    I admire the transmeta chips and would think it a great shame if the company goes under , but i don't want to see another patent group .
    I Hope they get bought out by a firm in the industry
    • Re:not another one (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lisandro (799651) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:17PM (#12120298)
      I think it refers to pulling out [nwfusion.com] an ARM [arm.com]: designing processor cores and licencing them to be manufactured by third parties (or licencing parts of the technology used).

      It could work if they do it right: Transmeta has a bunch of CPUs with very interesting technology and low consumption, which are in high demand these days - for embeeded systems mainly.
      • Indeed , a bussiness model in the ilk of ARM would be great , the tech i have been reading up is extremly intresting , but i would hate for them to become a leach company living off pure licenses and lawsuits
    • If they would like to become a research company working for others to develop tech , then fair enough but not an IP company

      So it's OK with you if they develop new technology; they just can't own it? In which case, how will they make money? Or are you saying they must sell off their IP as fast as they generate it?
      • If they want to take on a bussiness model such as ARM and continue research and development then license the tech fair enough , however if they want to become a leach and live on past glories with license fees and law suits then yes i would love to see them sell it off to a competitor and die .
        We dont need more companys in the ilk of SCO .
        when i said working for others i ment in the hippy sense ;)
    • Almost all companies are IP companies to some extent. Even RMS does not have a problem with physical patents. Sure software patents are dumb but patents on devices has worked for years. Just to get the facts out there even the FSF is an IP company. They defend their IP from people that try to rip them off. What they are talking about is becoming more like ARM than SCO.
      • That is something i have no problem with , i would prefer to call ARM a research company as IP is such a blanket term that it causes confusion like this .
        I see the same problem with Blogging also , we are dumping far to many diffrent things in the same basket .

        • IP stands for intellectual property. Much as hacker has been misused for those that are basicaly crooks, vandals, and script kiddies. IP seems to have been abused as well.
  • Linus left (Score:5, Informative)

    by morcheeba (260908) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:06PM (#12120243) Journal
    Linus left Transmeta in mid-2003 [theregister.co.uk] and now works at the Open Source Development Labs. [osdl.org] Here is ESR's unofficial Linux FAQ [catb.org]
  • by WebHostingGuy (825421) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:10PM (#12120259) Homepage Journal
    The transition to an IP selling to others sounds like a bad idea for the company. I know several people who are chip designers and it seems there is a lot of competition in this area now. And the people I talk to do the design in house. Unless there is some great achievement no one is going to pay for IP to someone else when they can do it for themselves right now and have the staff and resources to do it.
  • by Proc6 (518858) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:12PM (#12120272)
    Only marketing points that ever stuck in my mind about their CPUs were,

    - Could run other OS's through emulation.
    - Would give your notebook insane long battery life.

    The first point never mattered in a Windows / Linux world that ran on i386 anyway. The second point never really came to be. I remember looking at Sony Picturebooks with dinky screens and Transmeta CPUs and seeing them last like 2 hours. Big deal. If they didn't double battery life, the public wouldn't notice enough to buy Transmeta on purpose. Then Centrino came out and, well, yeah, thanks for playing.

    • It wasn't a problem with the chip but with the device manufacturers. Batteries are expensive, so they grabbed the transmeta chip, then cut costs on the batteries. The result is no real difference tot he end user except maybe weight or form factor.
  • Patent hoarding... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John Seminal (698722) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:12PM (#12120274) Journal
    I wonder if it is time to re-write the patent laws, so the original inventor gets credit, but everyone else is not screwed. What is the law now, that a person with a patent gets to enjoy the benifits of that patent for life? Maybe the way to go would be to have patents be protected for 4 years, then fall in the public domain. It would certainly solve the problem of patents being sold, and a company hoarding them. Patents will encourage monopolies, when the essance of the paw is to break them up. If only company "A" can use process "X" to make product "Z", then unless someone else can think of a new process, only one company can make that product. This gets very dangerous when we think of medical products. Do we really want only one company making medicines for a specific disease because they patented a gene sequence?
    • by nagora (177841) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:18PM (#12120299)
      What is the law now, that a person with a patent gets to enjoy the benifits of that patent for life?

      No, that's copyright. Patents vary slightly around the world but 20 years seems to be the norm.

      Do we really want only one company making medicines for a specific disease because they patented a gene sequence?

      No, which is indeed one of many reasons the USPO should be shot for allowing things it was never meant to allow, including discoveries instead of inventions.

      TWW

      • Agree with parent, but here's how I would rewrite patent law.
        1. Patents are valid for 15 years from date of submission.
        2. Only inventions may be patented (no discoveries, eg. gene sequences).
        3. A max of 100 patents can be issued per year (let's be honest: there aren't more than 100 truely original ideas generated per year).
        4. The cost of applying for a patent increases with the number of patents a company owns. As an example, the first patent might cost $1000, the second $1100, and so forth.
        5. If patent is found to
        • Your heart it is in the right place, but ease up...

          I can't support points 3-5 for patents, and as for point 3 of your copyright changes I would still allow a time period for a work to be out of print. How about making it a 5 year lapse like point 7 of the patent reforms? And I would still like to see the possibility of extensions during the life of a living author.

          You missed a big point in not specifying that all patents, trademarks, and copyrights can only be held by natural persons. Such a restriction d
          • You missed a big point in not specifying that all patents, trademarks, and copyrights can only be held by natural persons. Such a restriction deftly limits the unfair advantage of potentially immortal corporations.

            Excellent point. It's not one I had considered previously. I would change it just a little to allow trademarks to be held by the "potentially immortal corporations", but would keep the only natural persons can hold patents and copyrights. After all, if the Coke logo were held by an individua

            • By the same token, it took us thousands of years to get to the point where we had aircraft, and less than 70 more to get to the Moon.

              The rate of technological progress is accelerating; that's part of the reason why patents are being filed faster than before. I'm not saying that they're all valid (far from it), just that more stuff is being patented because there's more stuff to patent - it's not all due to abuses.
  • by JamesP (688957)
    Tranmeta processors: the best thing there WAS in notebooks, power-consumption wise.

    But since consumers want a "Pentium 4" to play solitaire at the airport and look important doing fancy Powerpoint presentatons, that's all they bought...

  • To a bankruptcy hearing I imagine , or if not that to a court near you
  • That a 'good idea' is pretty much worthless against the 1000lb gorilla.

    Welcome to bankrupcy, Transmeta.
    • Re:Goes to show (Score:4, Insightful)

      by avalys (221114) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:29PM (#12120341)
      Who says Transmeta had a good idea? They never delivered on any of their promises: long battery life, "code morphing", and all that. All they had was a slow, perhaps moderately efficient, processor that didn't offer any significant advantages over its competitors.
  • by crucini (98210) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:24PM (#12120319)
    It would be amusing to see a few heads exploding around here as people see Linus working for a "pure-IP" company. Of course there's no real contradiction - Linus believes in IP.

    I think a lot of slashdotters haven't faced up to the fact that IP makes the tech industry possible.
  • Look at MIPS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by OwenMarshall (779270) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:25PM (#12120324) Journal
    The problem with existing as a pure IP company that used to produce semiconductors... well, does it really work?

    One of the first examples I thought of was MIPS Technologies. MIPS processors have seen widespread adoption, and exist everywhere. SGI bought the company in the late 80's/early 90's to keep the processors vital to their systems.

    They existed for a while as a purely IP company -- they licensed the core designs to companies like Toshiba and NEC, who actually made the cores.

    "Fully half of MIPS' income today comes from licensing their designs, while much of the rest comes from contract design work on cores that will then be produced by 3rd parties." (Wikipedia [wikipedia.org])

    Now, MIPS Technologies was able to exist as an IP company for two reasons:
    1. SiliconGraphics was pumping in cash to keep them floating and desigining processors for their systems
    2. MIPS processors have become entrenched everywhere -- printers, routers, computers... it was (and is)one of the most widely used embedded processors.

    Transmeta will exist without a large company backing them up. So that means you have to ask if they are as entrenched as MIPS. If they are, they stand a chance.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:28PM (#12120339)
    the *only* reason why slashdot cared about transmeta was because linus was hired by them.. no other reason. the simple fact is that this company is a failure so could we please, please stop talking about it? it's going to go bankrupt like 99% of all startups, so it's really not that big of a deal. their technology really wasn't that great because intel smothered them with additional versions of their centrino chip. too bad so sad.
    • the *only* reason why slashdot cared about transmeta was because linus was hired by them.. no other reason. the simple fact is that this company is a failure so could we please, please stop talking about it? it's going to go bankrupt like 99% of all startups, so it's really not that big of a deal.

      I was interested in Transmeta before Linus started working there. Why?
      Well they are a chip company and they produced a chipset with some rather slick ideas.

      The problem with Transmeta is not the technology but

  • And so we say goodbye to our beloved company, Transmetta, that's gone to a place where I, too, hope one day to go: the toilet.

  • Forgot to mention (Score:5, Informative)

    by mocm (141920) * on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:35PM (#12120365) Homepage
    that transmeta is reducing its workforce (mostly marketing people) and has a contract with Sony who will pay for the help of 100 of the about 200 people working for transmeta. This will reduce quarterly costs to 5 million and increase transmetas life expectancy. They also stated that they will help Sony to put longrun2 into Cell derivatives and also have Fujitsu and NEC as longrun2 customers. They stop producing Crusoe and 130nm Efficeons, but will continue to supply customers as long as demand and inventory permits. They plan on producing 90nm Efficeons for select customers(?? probably Fujitsu).
  • by lurch_mojoff (867210) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:35PM (#12120367)
    Why is everybody so concerned with Transmeta suing every CPU user or manufacturer in sight? IP companies are not bad by definition. Just the contrary. And SCO is an exception! The first IP company I come up with, Rambus, is not the public enemy you are trying to turn those, who make a living out of intellectual property, into. Maybe not all of their products are as good or as cheap as many would like them to be (including Rambus themselves), but at least the company is not in the business with groundless lawsuits.

    So please, stop bitching over insane snowflake_in_hell possibilities of Transmeta's future and ask yourselves what will you benefit if CPU manufacturers (ie Intel, AMD, IBM) adopt the very good technologies, part of Crusoe and Efficeon processors. (stuff like LongRun [transmeta.com] and LongRun2 [transmeta.com], you know)
    • by servognome (738846) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @02:09PM (#12120485)
      The first IP company I come up with, Rambus, is not the public enemy you are trying to turn those,
      Rambus is a bad example, they tried to extort other RAM manufacturturers because they steered standards committees towards using technology they were patenting. As others have mentioned ARM is a good example. If you look at companies like nVidia, they are also very heavy on the IP side, as most of the work they do is designing GPU, the manufacturing is done by silicon foundaries.
  • I keep wondering (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cyfer2000 (548592) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:43PM (#12120403) Journal

    If Transmeta treated java P-code equally as x86 machine code, or even PHP & Perl source code, what will happen?

    Can an Oracle database performce very quick query on a Transmeta cPU?

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:47PM (#12120412) Homepage
    Transmeta's story is funny. Their big idea was supposed to be "code morphing", or on-the-fly recompiling for a different CPU. But it turned out that they achieved some success because they were the first to take on-chip power management seriously. That gave them an edge for one development cycle. Then, Intel and AMD noticed that power management mattered, and fixed their parts. End of Transmeta.

    "Code morphing" for the x86 instruction set never made too much sense, because making fast x86 machines is well understood, although painful. AMD already did some "code morphing" at cache load time; they inflate all the instructions to a constant length. (Intel does it differently.) For a CISC instruction set with inherent speed problems (the DEC VAX comes to mind) "code morphing" could be a big win. But there's no market for a fast VAX at this late date.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @02:22PM (#12120537)
      The biggest disappointment came from the rumors that their "code morphing" would permit them to run both x86 and PPC binaries at reasonable speeds.

      Developing a core that could be programmed translate x86 instructions into an internal format wasn't very impressive, because that's basically where the x86 has been going since the Pentium Pro. Since the translation code for other processors never materialized and the x86 performance was poor, there was no long-term advantage over Intel and AMD, which left Transmeta selling expensive parts that now can't compete with the Pentium M.

      If the promise of being able to run both Windows and Mac software at decent-performance had been realized, then they would have had an interesting market position. Unfortunately I don't think those rumors ever had a basis in reality, and Transmeta simply enjoyed riding them through gobs of financing.
    • Intel hasn't been dealing with raw x86 instructinos for a long time. Intel transforms x86 into "microcode" -- they break up the x86 instructions into simpler uops (or micro-ops) that are more like RISC instructions (I think). This is what enables the Pentium 4 to have 25-30 stage pipeline, which I don't believe was the greatest idea, but it was quite a feat of engineering and it allowed Intel to get ridiculous clock frequencies to sell their chips.
  • Get out of the way! It's heading right for us! *ducks*
  • I'll give you a hint!

    It starts with 'Chapter', and ends in 7 or 13.
  • It seems that many companies are getting these MBA-dominated bright ideas about getting out of the manufacturing business ... they'll just license their creations and MAKE MONEY FAST!

    This is much in line with the modern delusion that a company is at its highest efficiency and value when it only has a HQ with executives, lawyers and accountants.

    Let's look at this a bit closer to the real work, shall we?

    You're a chip manufacturer. You design and make chips. Then your company "matures" (actually, it
    • the execs start thinking that they can only design chips and let some other sucker incur the "costs" of manufacturing

      That strategy has worked well for NVIDIA.
      • So? Buying lottery tickets works well for the winners. Start looking at the process and population, and you can see what a fucking joke the lottery really is ... and the same thing applies to separating design from manufacturing. There are a few, random winners, but the process itself is unstable for the reasons I outlined, hence there are many losers. In the case of American outsourcing and offshoring, the sea change is so slow that it's taking a lot of time to see that companies are being flooded out

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