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Transmeta's Demise Predicted 287

egdull writes: "According to this story, Transmeta's party is over. Between buggy first-implementations of chips, leadership shake-ups, and "being outfoxed by Intel," Transmeta is done, according to C|Net. With a low stock price, they might be a target for a takeover, with Via being the only named interested party."
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Transmeta's Demise Predicted

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  • not too bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dakoda ( 531822 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:20PM (#2528493)
    thats not really a bad thing, considering how their products never really were that useful to begin with. their research (if any) in regards to lower power consumption could to sold to other companies to keep their systems cooler (*ahem* amd *ahem*). but, performance-wise, they were nothing special. *shrugs* sorry guys. so many other sources of power drain (harddrive, lcd screen, gfx cards) that the cpu isnt the only battery drain in even semi recent laptops anymore.
    • Re:not too bad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by madGenius ( 124267 ) <> on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:42PM (#2528699) Homepage
      Never the less, the transmeta processors are a good way to achieve binary compatibility using more advanced architectural concepts (VLIW). There lack of performance is a by product of the design decisions, if you want a low power synchronous design you have to reduce the speed [1]. The only suprise is that they achieved the performance they did vs. the difference in power consumption. Remember they are not just executing the bloated and inefficient [2] x86 instruction set but also effectively recompiling it as well. Personally I do not believe their ideas will dissappear just yet, though if the world economy goes into full recession Transmeta may not survive.

      [1] I suppose you could increase the parallelism, but there is only so much you can get from the instruction scheme.

      [2] If you do not believe it is inefficient then explain insructions such as XLAT (D7) and CMC (F5). (Yes i am sad enough to be able to assemble x86 code from memory :-)
      • Re:not too bad (Score:3, Interesting)

        by csbruce ( 39509 )
        Maybe they ought to be translating Java byte codes. You're not going to beat raw x86 hardware with emulation, but you can beat other systems at emulating the Java VM.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:59PM (#2528797)
      At least Linus had the good sense not to shoot his mouth off like ESR about being rich.

      Anyone recall ESR's "Surprised by Wealth" cock-a-doodle-do? What a flaming jackass. He needs to come out with a follow-up: Surprised by Unemployment.

      • moral of the story:

        If your stock suddenly rises to clearly unrealistic levels and you are "surprised by wealth"

        sell it all!
    • On behalf of people with a clue everywhere, I'd just like to remind you:

      We told you so. :)

  • Curious... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ivan Raikov ( 521143 )
    Since I'm not intimately familiar with Transmeta's designs and strategy, does anyone know why they chose to compete on the x86 market, instead of aiming for IA-64 compatibility and early releasing of consumer IA-64 systems?
    • They could have. R&D on 64 bit imulation chips proved cost proibitive. This will be another company that had very valuable parts, but the parts didn't complement each other. The buyer will more than likly brake up the company and sell the parts for more than the whole.
  • alpha (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tenman ( 247215 )
    I wish they had been able to buy aplha's tech. It seems like they could have used it.
    • Re:alpha (Score:2, Informative)

      by hotchai ( 72816 )
      I don't see how buying Alpha technology would have helped - Alpha's were never aimed at low power markets. In fact, Alpha's high performance designs made them power hungry monsters - not exactly what you want on your laptop. Not unless you can't find anything else to make an omelet on :)
    • I wish they had been able to buy aplha's tech.

      Alpha-based technology may yet buy them out. I'm pegging Samsung as the logical candidate to acquire them. An alpha in my laptop? Oh, yes, please! (-:
  • via chipset support (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Luyseyal ( 3154 )
    hehehe if Linus goes to work for VIA, maybe VIA support will finally be stabler than Intel chipsets.

  • Just Goes to Show (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:25PM (#2528541) Homepage Journal
    When you catch Intel with their pants down, they can actually recover. Interestingly, it's Intel that's been playing a bit of catch-up in the past few years.

    I wonder what Linus is thinking of doing if his employer goes.

  • by Headius ( 5562 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:26PM (#2528545) Homepage Journal
    Any company as confident as Transmeta that their product is going to revolutionize the market is in for a rude awakening. They didn't invent anything substantially new or different, and constantly touted how impressive their work was. In the end, it was a lot of spin to hide underpowered processors. Power is cheap, in the end, and people want top-end speed and performance.
    • Power is cheap, in the end, and people want top-end speed and performance.

      Rephrase that as "people like to think they need top end speed and performance" and I'll agree with you. It's the same reason people buy 4-wheel drive SUVs when they live in the midwest.
  • Now, as a stock holder... should I sell or should I hold out and hope for that Via buy out???

    This is the story of my portfolio. I still haven't managed to recover from my Lucent losses!!!
    • Re:stockholders! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by buckeyeguy ( 525140 )
      Given that the stock has fallen from an open of about $50 to its current price of $1.75 (prices in American $), unless you bought mighty low, you're looking at a loss even if Via buys them out. A relevant example is when NVidia bought the intellectual and technical property of 3dfx... at that time, the TDFX stock was not liquid in the market and thus became worthless. Don't wait until Nasdaq stops trading in the stock, get what you can if it looks like the place will close down. $1.75 is better than $0.

      All of the above is my opinion; I am an investor, not an advisor.
      For a graph of Transmeta's recent stock action, click here [].

      • Generally speaking, with current economic conditions, I'd say that it's a pretty good time to buy up some shares of tech companies like Transmeta. True, a stock at $1.75 can stand to lose even more value, and can result in a high percentage loss in value in the short run at "bad" case. And in "ugly" case, the stock could just be removed from NASDAQ. Given NASDAQ's commitment towards helping out companies in the slumping economy, I would gander to say that Transmeta will not be removed from the stock market when they fall below the minimum value.

        Unless you are a day trader, this shouldn't pose a problem. There is an element of risk involved, especially when investing in the short run. Looking in the long run, however, one can stand to make a great return on their investment. Transmeta isn't done; they have newer processors planned. Manufacturers have thus far only focused on the low-power properties of the Crusoe, and not very much has happened with the code morphing, which is evident from the C|Net article. Code morphing is a potential technology; when companies realize the value of it, then you will see manufacturers flocking over it rather than dropping it like a bad dream.

        Considering that most of Transmeta's research over the past few years have been on concepts such as code morphing, and considering that Intel and AMD haven't been researching this venue, Transmeta would therefore have the lead in such a category for quite a while. The only question is: when will companies realize the value of this technology?

        Note: I am not an analyst nor an investor (no money here). Feel free to take my argument with a grain of salt.

    • Guess that depends upon if you can afford to lose the money. If you have 100 shares, they are worth 175 dollars right now. Not a huge amount of money, and maby, just maby it might turn around. Anyways, look at the amount of money you'd get back from selling your shares, do you really need that money? Do you need a little bit of it to buy some other stocks with? Maby you might want to sell half your shares so that you can buy shares of MSFT. Whatever.
  • Grain of salt (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tim Macinta ( 1052 )
    Transmeta is done, according to C|Net.

    Please keep in mind while reading the article that Intel was (and may still be) an investor in CNet. They may be hoping for a self-fulfillng prophecy with respect to Transmeta. Hopefully this is not the case and the article is fairly reported (I don't know enough about Transmeta to make that determination myself) - just be congnisant of the source.

    • Re:Grain of salt (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tswinzig ( 210999 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:47PM (#2528731) Journal
      Please keep in mind while reading the article that Intel was (and may still be) an investor in CNet. They may be hoping for a self-fulfillng prophecy with respect to Transmeta. Hopefully this is not the case and the article is fairly reported (I don't know enough about Transmeta to make that determination myself) - just be congnisant of the source.

      No, Intel no longer owns any part of CNET. If they did, CNET would have included the statement indicating ownership.

      I know this because a year ago or so, I noticed an Intel story that did not mention their relationship, and I contacted the author of the article. He responded that Intel had recently sold its shares in CNET.
  • Did anybody notice those goofy quote graphics? What genius came up with them?


    Whoever it is, I'd like to SMACK HIM.
  • VIA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 13Echo ( 209846 )
    VIA could potentially become a big player in the CPU market. This technology would prove a useful implementation into their next-gen "Cyrix" stuff. I really like the idea of Transmeta's hardware, but it hasn't really proven useful for the average Joe.
  • by Shivetya ( 243324 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:27PM (#2528566) Homepage Journal
    Drives and Displays are.

    So basically they came to market with a nice sounding product, but it was still a product that sells stock, not laptops. It was a product that used important keywords, claimed it could beat intel, and enlisted the god of Linux.

    In the end its a product which really doesn't bolster laptop life all that much, and its real use was to make Intel provide the product that they could but did not have to.

    You cannot taunt Intel or Microsoft, they have too many people with very large egos, and they will stomp you if you try. The best bet is to operate under their radar... and not to draw attention to yourself with brash claims versus these two behemoths until you can sustain your business.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:30PM (#2528593)
      no, but cpu's are a great source of heat in laptops, and fans that have to come on constantly to keep it cool can suck up power as well.

      i know that having my laptop sitting on my lap for an extended period of time makes me very attractive to the cats that like to sit on blazing hot laps.

      it's not just power, it's the heat aspect as well.
    • It's not only the power, it's also the heat. The heat that is generated in a tiny area in a device that doesn't like to be hot. Even the low-power Intel "Mobile" processors can get pretty hot compared to notebook harddrives.
      • Even the low-power Intel "Mobile" processors can get pretty hot compared to notebook harddrives.

        Not to mention the PPC-G4. I was doing some video compression in my hotel room the other day and I swear I saw smoke coming from the bedspread under my TiBook.

        Even with that, heat problems more or less seem to be under control: my TiBook can handle it even if the underside gets a bit warm in normal use. Ditto the PIII Dells we have here. It's only when you run them flat out that it gets to be a problem, and that's where Crusoe falls down.

        I still wonder about the market for the Crusoe. Laptops eat too much power in other areas and palmtops already use processors that make Crusoe look like a power hog. Nice idea, but the niche was just too small.


    • Yes, there are many parts to the power consumption problem, and Transmeta are targetting one - the CPU (and chipset).

      Displays will get lower power with OLED displays.

      Drives will use less power, and also with cheaper, lower power memory (DDR-II at 1.8V), more data can be cached in RAM on a laptop instead of having the drive on.

      So low power CPUs are important. If we want a laptop that can last an entire plane journey around the world, or a week in the woods, instead of lugging 4 spare batteries around with you, then you need a low power CPU.

      VIA's C3 with LongHaul power management looks good. Intel have Speedstep, AMD have PowerNow. Transmeta awakened the major CPU makers to the need for low power processors. Can Transmeta stay ahead of the game? It will be hard.

      However, the sizable number of laptops are actually transportable desktops. CPU power is not relevant with these devices, hence the common usage of desktop processors in these devices.

  • IANAMBA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FatRatBastard ( 7583 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:30PM (#2528587) Homepage
    Granted I am not an MBA nor a chip engineer, so this may be just wishful thinking, but I always wondered why Transmetta didn't play to the strength of their chip: i.e. you could make it act like other chips thru firm/software. I realize that x86 was where the market was, but I find it hard to believe that they wouldn't expect Intel to counter them in the marketplace (as they did).

    I always thought that they should market it as an embedded chip, the lynch pin being they could supply you chips that wouldn't require you to relearn a new instruction set. I.e. if you're used to programming a Mips, they'd ship you the chip with the Mips instruction set. If you programmed PPC, then they'd ship you that. That would also give companies exposure to the underlying archetecture of the chip and maybe they'd migrate to its native instruction set.

    Like I said, I'm but a mere code jockey, so what do I know.
    • Re:IANAMBA (Score:2, Informative)

      by athakur999 ( 44340 )
      I.e. if you're used to programming a Mips, they'd ship you the chip with the Mips instruction set.
      MIPS chips are already low power and cheap. Why replace it with a more expensive chip that does the same thing?

      • I was just using it for an example. You're right, mips is pretty low power and cheap.

        I don't know if you could emulate more than one chip's instruction set on one of Transmetta's chips at once, but I could see how that could be useful. As a company you've got some code that worked on a MIPS, you had some other code that worked on an ARM and instead of rewriting one or the other you just bung it on a Caruso. Of course, that may be wishful thinking.
    • I always thought that they should market it as an embedded chip, the lynch pin being they could supply you chips that wouldn't require you to relearn a new instruction set. I.e. if you're used to programming a Mips, they'd ship you the chip with the Mips instruction set. If you programmed PPC, then they'd ship you that. That would also give companies exposure to the underlying archetecture of the chip and maybe they'd migrate to its native instruction set.

      True, but why not target the Java instruction set, and create a high-performance Java chip, with a bonus of being about to also execute x86 (or SPARC or whatever) applications? Going head to head with Intel in their main market was a strategic mistake. Note that even Intel had to get out of the RAM business when they failed to dominate the market, Transmeta should have studied their competition in more detail. Or at least, hired some expensive consultants [] to do it for them.
  • Don't blame Intel! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SClitheroe ( 132403 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:30PM (#2528594) Homepage
    Transmeta simply failed to deliver sufficient innovation to be competitive. The code morphing was an interesting idea, but they didn't do anything groundbreaking with it. Similarly, Intel managed to narrow the power consumption gap, while still beating them on the benchmarks.

    They designed a chip for a market that doesn't exist - on the embedded side, processors like the StrongARM, SH3, and even, at the very low end, stuff like Z80's are smaller, cheaper, and lower power. At the same time, on the high end, ie. laptops, speed is king. With 15" LCD's on laptops these days sucking down the batteries, the power savings of the Transmeta chips weren't worth the lower performance, and certainly weren't going to help boost sales to mhz-obsessed consumers.
    • With 15" LCD's on laptops these days sucking down the batteries, the power savings of the Transmeta chips weren't worth the lower performance

      Especially because if you use slower CPU your work takes longer time, and during that longer time the LCD and the rest of the hardware suck more juice from the battery that you saved on the CPU in first place. Often it means "slower CPU == shorter battery life".

  • It may at first seem odd that a chipset company would buy a processor company. But if you keep in mind that Transmeta is more than just a processor company, it does make sense. On thing that Transmeta has been doing besides producing extremely low-power chips is integrating motherboard chipset functionallity into their processors. Transmeta has a lot of experience with the same issues that Via deals with. In fact, if Transmeta stays independent and gets enough funding, I wouldn't be surprised if they went into the chipset market themselves.
  • Blame Intel? (Score:2, Interesting)

    As unpopular as this may sound, you can 'play the blame game' as much as you want; but shoddy products, lack-lustre quality control, and broken promises most likely played a larger factor in this 'possibly' unsuccessful venture moreso than any commercial interference.

    Of course, I take this article with a huge grain of salt. Products do get pushed back, yes, their stock is down 96% (Sounds familiar), sure, they've changed CEO's a couple's called 'business'. AMD was once counted out too, remember
  • Transmeta == Apple ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Accipiter ( 8228 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:36PM (#2528645)
    Transmeta intended to create a superior product that would quickly capture a small, but profitable, segment of the market--much in the way Apple Computer has survived with less than 5 percent of the operating system market.

    Comparing Transmeta to Apple is stupid.

    Transmeta develops and manufactures a single product - the Crusoe. Transmeta relies on this single product to drive their revenue. Apple, on the other hand, makes desktops, laptops, monitors, networking peripherals, and MacOS. They're not relying on a single product to stay afloat. So yes, Apple is still alive while only holding 5% of the OS market. Why? Because 100% of Apple's operating system installations run on Apple's own hardware. (Not counting the five or six Apple clones out there.)

    If Apple made their living by only selling MacOS, then the comparison could apply. Not here.
  • Ars Technica's take (Score:5, Interesting)

    by [amorphis] ( 45762 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:37PM (#2528653)
    Ars [] has a good editorial in response to the CNET article.

    At the end of my Crusoe article, I predicted that TM would eventually announce a workstation-class chip. It's been a little over a year and this still hasn't happened, but I remain convinced that they're working on just such a project.
    • code-morphing (Score:3, Interesting)

      by simpl3x ( 238301 )
      why does transmeta have to enter every market? they could easily license the technology to amd and remain a small profitable company. is the future really about wintel everywhere? look at arm who has a rather nice set of tech. large and unprofitable is really no fun!
  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:40PM (#2528679) Homepage Journal
    The low power consumption was nice for laptops, but they missed the real target. The code morphing would have made this a great chip for small enterprises with limited resources that need a sandbox that can emulate different platforms, or home users that want to run both PC and Mac. There was the potential to make a real dual-booting machine. But they just sold it to laptop makers.

    Real shame.
    • Yeah, right after Transmeta had their big unveiling, I emailed them and asked if they could do the same thing with PPC. Somebody actually replied and said it would be easy to do, but they were focusing on Pentium first. I can see from their point of view, that's where the money is, but I thought they were missing a lot of opportunities by not emulating other architectures. I mean if you have one chip that you can swap from an Intel board to an Apple board by just telling it "ok, now emulate PPC," I mean, that's gotta be useful to somebody I would imagine? There are other differences between platforms but I think if your CPU can speak both PPC and x86 then that's a big step towards having "native" Windows and MacOS (e.g.) on the same computer.
      • I mean if you have one chip that you can swap from an Intel board to an Apple board by just telling it "ok, now emulate PPC," I mean, that's gotta be useful to somebody I would imagine?

        Absolutely not useful. The reason is that all m/boards (and the rest of the computer hardware) is supposed to be perfectly optimized to do only one job - to run one instruction set as fast as possible, and as cheaply as possible.

        There is no benefit to the end user if the same "universal" chip is used on two less-than-perfectly performing m/boards. There may be some marginal benefit to the manufacturing people (who need to order fewer different parts), but even that is not enough.

        Such system would be beneficial only on multi-CPU emulation boards, where you could run several OSes designed originally for several different CPUs. But there is no need for monsters like that.

        It is also awfully difficult to achieve production-quality compatibility with someone's else bugs, misfeatures and even correctly working microcode. Some programs may depend on relative timing of machine commands; in embedded world this is routine to count clocks spent in some loops; in desktop world you could just get a BSOD, and guess all you want why.

        The point is that the original IP holders have a huge advantage - they have all the sources, they are the standard. Emulation business is nothing but chasing someone's taillights.

  • Hard to compete (Score:2, Informative)

    by snoozerdss ( 303165 )
    It's hard for any company to compete with Intel sure AMD's done well but how many companies will really make any headway aginst Intel? Not many IMO. It's almost like trying to compete with Windows, Something may be a better product but when people get used to something they don't like to change. It scares them. Maybe not the best thing to compare this to but you get the idea.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:40PM (#2528687)

    Saw this on zdnet []...

    The cat is out of the bag. Linus Torvalds was recently seen living under a freeway overpass. When asked about his current living conditions, he remarked "well, Transmeta had to lay me off, and they kept it quiet because they didn't want to enrage their only customers -- Linux geeks." What will this mean for the God of Linux? All the Linux companies are showing cash shortfalls, and none appear to be hiring. A spokesman for Red Hat commented, "We're just tapped out of money. We wish Linus well, but what can we say? We got what we wanted out of him, and know he's going to have to get a real job like the rest of us will have to sooner than later."

    Linus appears to be taking it in stride. "Well, I've always said that I wasn't interested in making money off Linux. And heck, this overpass is not so bad. It's still better than Finland."

    Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda of Slashdot, often thought of a spiritual leader of Linux, commented that "Hey, he's welcome to crash at my house, except that my house is due to be repo'ed any day know due to the VA Linux stock price crash."

  • Transmeta never had a competitive advantage in the marketplace. They could never claim that their CPU's were better enough in any respect to make them a suitable replacement for a comperable Intel CPU.

    Their key angles of low heat/longer battery life were true, but the extent with which they were true wasn't enough to get anybody's attention.

    For example: If Transmeta's CPU would have made my laptop last 8 hours on a charge vs 4, then THAT is worth making a switch, even if it means lost CPU power. I don't think they ever produced that kind of difference.

    In order to compete with Intel, Transmeta had to have a REAL competitive advantage. They never had one good enough to make them a viable option. So, I'd have to agree that they may not belong for this world...

    Take care,

    -- []

    • by monkeydo ( 173558 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:15PM (#2528905) Homepage
      Fujitsu is selling a Crusoe based notebook that they claim will last 14 hours on a charge.

      Lifebook P []

      Transmeta's problem is not technology, it's public relations. As the article's author pointed out, after 5 years of secrecy they are not comfortable talking to the public. Add to that fact that Intel is telling anyone who'll listen that Crusoe is junk. Do you really think Intel doesn't have anything to do with the lack of notebooks in the US with Crusoe processors?
      Linux zealots blame MS for not being able to buy Linux laptops, but turn a blind eye to the Intel monopoly? What gives?

      This article is a good example of the kind of press Transmeta doesn't need or deserve. The authors claim Transmeta is down the tubes, but don't provide any evidence of that (bad debts, layoffs, etc.) In fact Transmeta has enough cash to go 3 more years at the current run rate before becoming profitable. They may indeed go tits up or be bought, but it is _far_ to early to start nailing up the coffin
    • Transmeta had to have a REAL competitive advantage.

      And this advantage is NOT in Laptoplandia. Imagine having a PDA - larger than Palm, with some Flash (come on, my camera has 96MB!), some RAM (not too much, save power) and Crusoe CPU. But instead of the LCD it has heads-up display. These are very small, very light (50-100g assembled), very sharp (I tried one, 1024x768 - better than my 17" monitor back then) and need just milliwatts to operate. That's where the CPU would make a difference. Unfortunately, there is a negative market reaction to any wearable computer with HUD.

  • by trb ( 8509 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:45PM (#2528718)
    Hardware companies have had this problem for more than 30 years: CPUs are a commodity. You gather together a bunch of hot computer scientists (I mean scientists) with great theory and design skills but not lots of market vision. They want to implement the latest cool thing, and they forget that what makes a CPU better is mostly a matter of squishing the little wires closer together. Computer science hasn't progressed much in the past 40 years, it's chip fab materials science that's made the leap.

    This happened to DEC. Apollo. Symbolics. MIPS. Thinking Machines. (Just a sample, the full list is lots longer.) If you're a very smart fellow with focus on CS theory instead of market practice, it can happen to you too.

  • Eulogy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fudboy ( 199618 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:49PM (#2528743) Homepage Journal
    Take note of my username: Fudboy. I made this account in the midst of the heyday hype just prior to the first Transmeta product announcement, largely to combat said hype and interject a note of reason into the discussions here at slashdot. Many of the denizens here were overly excited about Transmeta, what with Linus on board and the appearance of their being David to Intel's Goliath...

    It is a sad day coming for the chip industry, but not unexpected. Transmeta had some very sharp ideas, great talent, excellent marketting and the promise of revolutionary influence on the mobile computing market. But sadly, many forces conspired to undermine the great promise TMTA represented: most apparently the problems in logic design, lack of op/s power, expensive wholesale prices resulting from increasingly bizarre fabrication contractual arrangements with competitors, a weakening market made worse by tragedy... but I digress.

    In a few years, there'll be another company attempting a Transmeta-style hype campaign, and I hope that when that day comes, we can all remember how this played out.

    While it is sad to see a company die, let us not forget that this isn't entirely a tragedy- the venture capitalists won great riches, the principles of the company also surely won such riches if they were smart enough to sell liberally afetr the IPO, a handfull of speculators surely won such riches in the early heyday of trading the TMTA stock... But also let us mourn those who will find themselves unemployed, those whose brilliant work will be shelved or scraped and forgotten, those foolish enough to still hold the stock and scramble to cut their losses even at this late hour. Let us offer them our condolences.
  • If I were Nvidia, I'd try to buy-out Transmeta... I mean Tramsmeta has a dream team of chip designers. Nvidia seems to be in a very good position these days... as their company makes chips way more complex than an Intel P4. Since they recently entered into the AMD chip-set arena with the upcoming Nforce chipset... if stands to reason that Nvidia would be calculating its current holdings to leverage a buyout. This is purly theory on my part here, so don't go tell your mom'n'pop just yet. But lets continue to look at the situation... Nvidia took a chance on buying out 3Dfx when it had sealled the deal to make the game-consol. So now that its only competion is the Radion card, who knows...

  • by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @02:55PM (#2528771) Homepage

    in addition to their virtualized x86 processor is one that supports many different architectures (Alpha, x86, PA-RISC, etc) on a single chip, with context switching between them. Add vmware to the mix, and you've got virtual OSs on top of virtual, native processors. Talk about being able to run platform 'A's native code on platform 'B'!

  • Sorry, but am I the only one to notice Transmeta [] (VA in Red) Vs. VA "Software" [] (Transmeta in Red)??

    Looks like similar fates, I'm afraid...
  • I think the biggest killer for transmeta was that the computers that they were in were almost always so expensive. They were touting them as sub-$1000 dollar notebook chips, but most of the ones I saw were $3000...
  • "Right out of the blocks, I would suspect that some of the employees would walk out. Most of the smart guys have money, and they are motivated by other things," said Brian Alger, an analyst at Pacific Growth Equities. "These are quirky, quirky people."

    Do any specific quirky smart guys not motivated by money come to mind?
  • by ( 152591 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:08PM (#2528855) Homepage
    It would be a real shame to lose the most important piece of Transmeta's technology - the code morphing. Lower power was just a side benefit.

    Image being able to design a totally new architecture unique to your specific application. Utilizing Transmeta's technology, you could design a specialized interface to the hardware, unique to your application, and then build a software platform around it.

    Sure, that doesn't seem useful to someone running Windows applications, but think about how easy it would be to create specialized embedded devices. If you needed a processor with only 30 instructions, instead of the 4 billion provided by present-day CISC technology, you could create a pseudo-RISC layer on top of the chip and write software optimized for those procedures.

    I'll be very disappointed if, in 30 years I find myself thinking how it should've revolutionized the industry, but was instead forgotten about.
  • Code morphing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CtrlPhreak ( 226872 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:11PM (#2528883) Homepage
    The really sad part is that they stressed the "low power" part of their design. The really cool part was the code morphing. The crusoe was a full 128bit (256? can't remember, although they had it planned) processor that had an emulation layer rinning on it to translate x86 commands into it's own instruction set. This is really cool. Transmetta could change the whole chip design drastically and still maintain compatability with this layer. also you could speed up your computer with a simple bios update when they had finished more research for algorythms and tweaked the code some more.

    I was wondering if any other company had interests in code morphing technology of this type.
    • I can reprogram the computer in my car to go faster, but Dodge didn't advertise that on the sticker for obvious reasons. They've got a fast car that they want to sell, for about 3 times the price of the one I just bought. Why advertise that you can get more for less in a vertical market?

      How can you sell a processor to OEMs when they know that they can't underclock it or dump it in cheap boxes and force people to upgrade (and buy more product) in a year or two? If you can download a hack from some web site to make your machine execute instructions faster, where's the market for higher-MHz CPUs? I can guarantee you that OEMs hate the concept of code morphing for this very reason.

      One other factor: Poor marketing execs don't know how to sell a moving target. The only thing that was definitive about Crusoe chips was that they used less power. When in doubt, you go for the definite point that won't get challenged. Transmeta hit the wrong market (mainstream) instead of the people that really needed them, but you all knew that already. Why is a different matter.
      • Higher clock speeds of the same archetecture will always be faster. If a hack on a lower speed processor will speed it up, then that same hack on the higher clocked chip will make it that much faster.

        Dodge doesn't release the software to reprogram it's cars to go faster. It isn't a good idea. This would be issued by the same company that released the chip.

        NVidia seems to be able to market the higher performance of it's later drivers, and that's just like this. Market the speed of the chip that it is at now, not mentioning that it could go faster, then release a patch for people who already have one making it better for them.

        There is also a point where no ammount of software engineering can make it go any faster, therefore they can only have a higher clock to speed it up.

        There is also the issue of having a compleatly new archetecture underneith without worrying about the instruction set used. Couldn't this be used by the operating system to be able to run any software written for any archetecture (disregarding OS specific calls)? No more worrying about backwards compatability of the hardware of the processor, the emulation layer takes care of that.
        • Whoever brought up running Java bytecode on it has the best idea yet. The Crusoe is, essentially, a malleable hardware VM. The Java embedded market would fall all over themseles for that.
  • The most revealing part of this article was the comment that Transmeta and TSMC were pointing fingers at each other over reliability problems. This is *very* bad for Transmeta -- reminiscent of the whole Ford/Firestone squabble over tires.

    Transmeta is a "fabless" semiconductor company; their advantage is supposed to be in their architecture and circuit implementation, not in the process and manufacturing technology. Who makes their chips should be invisible to the public and their customers, and should be determined entirely by internal questions of who can deliver what they need at the lowest price.

    If their technology depends on the fab doing tricky, custom stuff for them, they will be at the mercy of the Intels, AMDs, and IBMs that have their own manufacturing facilities under their own control.
  • by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:22PM (#2528959)
    The power saving technologies that Transmeta developed would have been great sellers 5 years from now, when laptops switch to organic LED's or even just white LED backlights and hard drives begin to be replaced with solid state devices. Then the CPU really would be the bottleneck in making a low power system. I still like the idea of diskless Linux workstations with Transmeta chips, though. Too bad they didn't capitalize on innovating solutions.
  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:22PM (#2528966)
    Embedded systems engineers are running into trouble for certain applications. On the one hand, StrongARM, MIPS, and even low-end microcontrollers like the 8051 are reliable and cool. But in the race for speed everyone has thrown power consumption to the wind. What if you need something more powerful than a StrongARM, but can't make use of Ultra SPARC and Intel processors because they simply run much too hot for embedded devices? So the embedded engineers are starting to resort to custom-designed processors tuned for specific purposes. But it would be much better if someone put effort into higher performance CPUs that didn't munch up 50 watts of power.
  • This doesn't sound like a credible source for technical information:

    "We'd get products and then find an anomaly. You can put in a workaround but the only way to fix it is through silicon," said Steve Andler, Toshiba's vice president of marketing.
  • running out of money (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ahde ( 95143 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @03:54PM (#2529171) Homepage
    Transmeta has about $262 million in cash, but it expects to burn through $20 million in the current quarter.

    at that rate, if their business doesn't pick up, they'll be out of business in 6 years!
  • More Telling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SomeOtherGuy ( 179082 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @04:07PM (#2529247) Journal
    than the actual story, is the related stories below it.

    * Transmeta CEO to step down March 1, 2001
    * Transmeta plans to raise more than $140 million in IPO October 2, 2000
    * Transmeta shoots for 700 MHz with new chip January 20, 2000
    * Intel clones face tough market September 2, 1998
    * Transmeta dumps latest CEO October 16, 2001
    * Next Crusoe chip bogged down in testing October 9, 2001
    * Transmeta goes after non-PC chip market October 2, 2001

    Not exactlly a portfolio of success stories.
  • by DocSnyder ( 10755 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @04:15PM (#2529303)
    IIRC Transmeta was the first one to optimize power consumption by design. Probably the world is just not ready for low power chips, but it will be later.

    Compare it with engines: about 100 years ago, Rudolf Diesel introduced a more efficient combustion method, which even needed a different kind of fuel. Up to 10 or 15 years ago, diesel engines were noisy, stinky and less powerful than gas engines, so not many people cared about their fuel consumption being slightly lower.

    During the 1990s, more and more people (at least in Europe) became aware of the importance of reducing energy consumption. Volkswagen/Audi were the first to introduce a really low-consumption yet very powerful type of diesel engine (TDI). After some years, most other manufactorers saw the growing market and followed. Rudolf Diesel didn't profit at all from his work - he even killed himself in desperation of his seemingly failed invention. But his technology is still there, and today it rocks.

    We may probably lose Transmeta, but the idea of designing CPUs in a way that they consume less power while still being quite powerful will remain. The market for this technology is still new, but it is expected to grow - through higher energy prices as well as the need for longer uptime of battery-powered devices.
  • I'm not dead yet! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @05:06PM (#2529655)
    Full disclosure: I work at Transmeta

    Please don't write us off just yet. We have over two years worth of cash in the bank, and we've recently announced our second product []. The Crusoe chip has been very popular in Japan, including holding the #1 Notebook Top Seller spot for a while.

    Is it easy to go up against Intel? Of course not. This is not an overnight, just-add-water kind of deal. We're trying to change the way people perceive computing. NEC [] has taken our chip and combined it with a low-power screen for further power savings. RLX [] is using the Crusoe chip to build ultra-dense server racks. Granted, there's some overcapacity in this area at the moment, but that could turn around.

    Yes, our stock price has been beaten down. Yes, Intel is a formidable competitor. Yes, we've had a management shake-up. I don't think it's nearly as bad as the CNET article makes it sound. I'm not looking for a new job, and I'm staying fully vested with the ESPP. Let's wait and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.

  • by blackwizard ( 62282 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @06:38PM (#2530158)
    ... then maybe I'll finally be able to put a decently fast (~300 mhz) CPU into an ATX case that doesn't need a CPU fan that keeps dying. Oh how I wish there was more low-maintinance hardware out there...
  • by glassware ( 195317 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2001 @06:47PM (#2530211) Homepage Journal
    One of the really annoying things about chip manufacturing is Moore's law. In my opinion, the constant pace of innovation is what beat out all Intel competitors.


    Digital makes an Alpha chip that's 25% faster than Intel's chip. That's a noticeable speed boost! ... But, if you wait a year, Intel's chips will match its speed. So you might as well buy an Intel chip now and plan to upgrade in a few years.

    Centaur makes a chip that's 25% cheaper than Intel's chip. That's a nice price drop! ... But, Intel makes so many chips that don't turn out to be 1.5 GHz P4s, it can afford to send out all those low-speed Celerons at roughly the same price as Centaur. So, you might as well buy a low-cost brand-name Intel chip.

    Now, Transmeta makes a chip that's 25% cooler... and once again you can buy an Intel chip that's almost as good, but much more available.

    In each of these cases, Intel has been able to shift the price-performance ratio and knock out a competitor. Only AMD's Athlon line, which is capable of competing with Intel from top to bottom, seems to be able to stake out its own territory.

    I think the niche market for general purpose CPUs doesn't exist.

  • From a potential upcoming job interview:

    "So, what are some of the projects you've worked on previously?"

    "Well, let's see... I.. accomplishment, accomplishment, WROTE A UNIX-TYPE OPERATING SYSTEM, accomplishment, accomplishment..."

    "Hmmm... you don't seem to have any ASP experience... are you sure you can contribute to this project?"

    It really is no wonder the entire computer industry is in the tank. The whole "IT new economy revolutionary blah" really was just all about upgrading to the next Intel this and Microsoft that. Eighty thousand billion dollars worth of shrinkwrap, heatsinks and icons.


  • Transmeta: Code morphing, low power

    ARM: low power, very low power, high performance

    Transmeta "We can beat Intel"

    ARM: "Intel pay us money to use our stuff"

    Wonder why ARM are still around and Transmeta are going down ? Not too hard to figure is it.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain