There's two chips:
- Scales to 400 mhz
- .22 micron process
- 73 die-type
- Released: Now
- Scales up to 700 mhz
- .18 micron process
- 73 die type
- Released: Mid-2000
- Projected Pricing: $119-329
The chips themselves are 128-bit chips, and are aimed at the mobile market, as TM has said before. One of the incredible parts is their power consumption: 20 milliwatts of power in deep sleep, and 1 watt of power in regular usage. They've written their own BIOS, with Power Management on the chip called "LongRun". The chip actually gauges how much of the processing power that is needed and adjusts the power accordingly, meaning a much longer battery life.
The thermal difference is cool, too - the Pentium III is 113 Celsius, while Crusoe runs at 48 Celsius. That means no fans needed, another power saving move. And my lap won't be as warm. They're aiming this at everything from cell phones to laptops. At this time, they've said that samples have been shipped to "leading notebook vendors" but have declined to name them. As they've said before, IBM is making the chips for them.
What Linus has been doing: He's been writing a version of Linux called "Mobile Linux". It's written into the ROM and you can use the machine through a touchpad screen. The IDE and everything will be released to the Community. Yes, Linux has gone even more mobile. Oh - and Dave Taylor & Linus played Quake to demo it. Linus lost.
The x86 emulation is done at the hardware level - although emulation is the wrong word. We'll have more information on that as well.
We'll be updating this story - the press conference is still going on, but I figured people would want to know. This looks amazing. Check out ZDNet's tech coverage.
UPDATE by David Cassel
What I Saw At the Revolution
Transmeta rented an auditorium on an estate 20 minutes from their headquarters -- and everyone was excited. Walking through the rain -- past the huge lawn, the PacSat satellite uplink, and guys in suits talking into cellphones -- was Transmeta manager Rob Bedichek, who worked on Crusoe's dynamic translator. I asked him how he liked working at Transmeta, and he told me "The first couple of years," I'd wake up and I'd go, 'I have the most fun job in Silicon Valley." On the way into the auditorium I asked him about about the company ("The people I work with are amazing: people whose work I'd read about as a grad student.") and Linus. ("Great guy. Very capable.")
Transmeta had packed the press into an auditorium known as the "carriage house" -- I saw a dozen TV cameras, and I'd guess 150 reporters. A big screen filled part of the wall by the stage, flashing a fast montage of pictures (circuit boards, people's faces) over cheesy jazz music. But when Transmeta CEO David Ditzel took the stage at 9:05, there was a dead silence. "I know some of you have been waiting a while to hear about what we've been doing," he said to play up the tension, prompting a few laughs. "Some of you have been waiting four and a half years..."
Ditzel ran through his Power Point Presentation. (1995. "Something was fundamentally wrong with processors...") and pointed out that the people looking for solutions had been the entrenched semi-conductor companies. Then he announced, of course, Transmeta's "combined hardware/software solution.... The first microprocessor re-thought explicitly for the problems of mobile computing." By now everyone knows that it retains x86 compatibility while allowing a a completely new chip architecture. Ditzel remembered that when he was recruiting for Transmeta, after sharing his plans he'd hear, "If you start this company, I'll quit my job and come join you to do this.
Ditzel ticked off the specs, using phrases like "dynamic translation" and "software-optimized execution," and pointing out that only one-quarter of the functionality would be on the Crusoe chip itself. And there were frequent mentions of the mobile Linux operating system. (More about that later.) Wednesday's announcement was just the first two chips in the Crusoe family: the TM3120 (with 400 Mhz, 108 KB of cache, using 1 watt of power) and the TM5400 (700 Mhz, 400 Kb cache, and 1 watt of power.) Towards the end, Ditzel demonstrated a WebPad -- running Linux -- and pointed out that today's notebooks still use chips designed for servers and desktops. Then he staked his claim. "If it has a battery and a Web browser, it's going to be built with Crusoe."
Ditzel had to stress details for business reporters -- "significant staff" in Taiwan and Japan and "a very strong partnership with IBM -- and later Doug Laird, Transmeta's VP of Product Development, described IBM as "Great guys" and added, "We are in production right now." But I liked one of Ditzel's last comments: "Our goal is to fundamentally change the rules."
Doug Laird was more intense, arguing with current benchmarks ("Today's benchmarks address performance and battery life separately") and promising to show "what is fundamentally different here... Where's the beef." Using a red laser pointer, he ran through taped footage of a system running MS Word 2000 and Excel 2000 on a system with a Crusoe chip, "translating on the fly, as you're running the programs." Then he displayed thermal images comparing processors. (Sensing a photo-op, the cameras started flashing when he held up two "thermal solutions" and started talking about fans...) Laird made his point by showing a Crusoe system using less than 2 watts of power while playing a DVD and pointing out that it can adjust from frame to frame. (The audience laughed at the PowerPoint movie that showed two laptops playing a DVD. Two thermometers showed the temperature rising; then the laptop on the right started smoking...)
Then to break things up, there was the historic Quake showdown between Quake co-creator David Taylor and Linus. "I can't think of anybody better on the face of the planet to demonstrate Crusoe on Linux than Linus Torvalds," Laird joked. The photographers rushed towards the stage again for the even-more-obvious photo-op as Linus came out in his denim shirt, jeans, and sandals. ("I'd like to point out that if I lose, it's not the operating system," Linus joked.) It all ended when Linus fired all his bullets in a spray, then got nailed when he ran out of ammo. (Later in the press conference, after a bunch of questions about his role and Transmeta, Linus referred back to the Quake game, saying it was "meant to show that I'm here, but I'm not supposed to be the main point of it all.") One of Transmeta's technical staffers told me at lunch that "We all knew Linus was gonna get his ass kicked," and sure enough, when I asked Dave Taylor what he thought of Linus's Quake-playing, he said "I thought he sucked." But then he added modestly "I suck at code compared to him. So that felt good."
After the Quake match, the scripted presentation ended and the open press conference began. Linus had worked on the code morphing, but he wasn't one of the execs in this first round of questions. Still, he was clearly on people's minds. Almost immediately a reporter asked what Linus's role was at Transmeta, and then Boardwatch's Thom Stark drew a laugh when he asked when Transmeta would open source the code morphing software. (Since it's considered part of the chip's intellectual property, they probably won't.) And Mark from Linux Journal asked why everything had been so tightly guarded, arguing "There's no demand for secrecy."
Ditzel's answer was that he'd learned the difference between hype and buzz. ("Buzz is when you're quiet and someone else talks about you.")
Rob Bedichek told me later they were proud to have not made promises until they had something to show -- and David agreed. "You've heard what we have here. Today." Right before lunch, Rob remembered that it had been like working on the Manhattan Project. "You don't talk."
The audience wasn't easy. Two back-to-back questions raised the issue of benchmarks (which are answered extensively on Transmeta's Web site) and PC Week asked where their OEM's were. But Ditzel did a good job fielding the questions. He stressed that this announcement had intentionally left out OEM's, to focus attention on the chip itself -- and VP of Marketing Jim Chapman joked that anyways, "I don't think 'contract' is a germane word in the PC industry."
In fact, Ditzel was really building up momentum. I asked him what had happened in early 1998 -- when he was quoted as saying "We had a major change in direction a few months ago, and that has slowed us down a bit." His immediate answer drew applause, and probably the biggest laugh of the morning. "That was just something to throw off reporters.
I'm not sure if he was referring to the same period, but when Linus came on later he mentioned that the first chip didn't perform as well as they'd hoped. But thanks to the code morphing software, "one of the advantages is being able to change the way the chip works..." After some early bugs, "We were able to tell our translation software: Don't do that." He pointed out the chip could easily handle something like the Pentium's famous long-division bug. "Maybe we will have a bug -- but at least we can fix it."
Anyway, at this point, Ditzel was building up so much momentum that the next question was just, "Ask the President to say something." (Mark Allen had been introduced as the new president and CEO for Transmeta, hired just two weeks earlier.) There was a laugh when Ditzel aced the question about expected chip volume. (Was it hundreds of thousands or millions? "Yes.") Chris DiBona asked about the size of the marketing and sales organization (25 people) and as things were wrapping up, someone asked the obvious question about running Windows: does Crusoe *improve* the stability? Ditzel's answer? "If you get a blue screen on another chip, we'll reproduce that faithfully."
Later they brought out Linus, Bill Roses from the code morphing division, Doug Laird again, and three other technicians for the "Engineering Press Conference" -- but during the break, I talked to Rob Bedichek some more. "I'm totally pumped, totally pumped," he said. "This is a big mountain to climb." So how did they do it? "With an unbelieveable team. And an unbelieveable amount of money." (I said I'd heard $100 million, and he said "Well north of that.") Reporters were everywhere -- mulling in clusters out of the rain.
"What do you think of this stuff?" I heard one ask another.
"I think they fixated on a market that's not being well-served."
One of the first questions in the Engineering Press Conference was for Linus, about the mobile Linux operating system that kept coming up in the presentation. It's a "small distribution to give to OEM's so they could have something to run with....not a Transmeta Linux, but more of a vehicle for supporting OEM's." (Rob told me later, "We recompiled Linux for our machine. There's no advantage!") Later Linus added that "It looks a lot better this week than it did last week," and that it "needs some work..." ("Like the chip, we're not releasing anything until it's ready.") Naturally, he specified that it will be Open Source. Someone asked him if his Transmeta job would affect kernel development. "My interests have always affected kernel development," he pointed out. "That's not gonna change."
Linus also talked about how much he liked mobile computing, saying he loves his Gateway but that it takes forever to boot. When asked about how he'd decided to come to work for Transmeta, he described the presentation Transmeta had given him. "I went back to the hotel room and I thought, 'These people are crazy.' And that was a positive reaction. Despite the simulations they showed him "at glacial speed," Linus wanted to work for "a company that does something for and something interesting."
So what were the other job offers that he'd had? Linux companies, of course, Linus answered, but "I didn't want to polarize the Linux market." And Transmeta is a good solution. "We were a chip company where Linux is part of a much larger strategy."
Then he asked the reporters, "Do you have questions for someone else?" (No real surprises; except Bill Roses conceding that Mac compatibility was "theoretically possible.")
When it was over, reporters milled around for the free lunch or crowded into the next building to play with the demo equipment. Basically it was boxes showing the Crusoe chip's ability to run existing software. (There was a Windows 2000 box running Office 2000, next to a Linux box running Quake) and some blue laptops in front of cards that said things like "Ultralight Mobile". But towards the end Transmeta VP of Software Engineering Colin Hunter did show me a neat WebPad using Transmeta boards and software and IDEO mechanicals which let you plug-in attachments for games and cameras.
And with that, as the press release said, "Transmeta breaks the silence."