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Transmeta Needs Microsoft 443

An anonymous reader writes "Faced with dwindling sales, it looks like Transmeta needs Microsoft's new tablet PC to survive." Or, if not Microsoft, some company who can spark the long-overdue tablet-computing revolution.
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Transmeta Needs Microsoft

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  • Face It (Score:5, Funny)

    by nizcolas ( 597301 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:43PM (#4603009) Homepage Journal
    The best tablets, came from Sumeria.
  • by djsable ( 257312 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:44PM (#4603023) Homepage
    And if Transmeta makes the chips, then that is double cool.

    I personally don't care WHO makes the damn things, as long as someone makes them, and gets them out there for reasonable prices!
    • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @08:39PM (#4604099) Homepage
      Except for a few limited fields, tablet PC's are really not ideal. They are well suited to any field where you need some portability, and expect to be doing more data viewing than entry. The field that is most obviously well suited to this is the medical field. There you have X-rays, tests, etc, that can all be loaded from a central server and you only need to make small annotations. You need some portability, but not much.

      The problem is that not many fields really fit that bill. You usually want either total portability or very limited portability (thus making the laptop or PDA a good choice). Furthermore you sacrifice a lot of your ability to do data entry on a tablet PC with only a limited gain in portability. A well designed PDA is actually far superior for data entry because I can use a thumb keyboard and enter data quickly. A tablet requires one hand to hold the thing, and then the other to do data entry.

      I've used them and I've found that, for the most part, they are solving a problem that I've never had. I suspect that it's a problem very few people have, so except in a few niche fields tablets aren't going to be a big thing. So buhbye transmeta.
    • by soloport ( 312487 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @09:05PM (#4604268) Homepage
      Maybe MS will sell each one at a loss. Then someone could port Linux to the hardware for, say, US$100,000. Next, we could buy thousands of them and make hundreds Beowulf clusters!

      Microsoft RULES!
    • Reasonable prices definitely being the "operative word"! I was looking at Transmeta systems a few months ago and the prices were way out of line. I would have been paying more than a competing Intel- or AMD-based system and getting much less performance. What the hell! Sure Transmeta's per unit costs are probably higher since they're a smaller shop, but I'm sorry, I don't buy based on feeling sorry for a company's problems. I have a budget, too.
  • A niche chip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TiMac ( 621390 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:45PM (#4603025)
    Transmeta took the risk in having a very specialized chip--that is...it's very low power but not as fast as others...maybe the risk just isn't going to pay off if there's no market for it.

    Supply and demand....but where's the demand?

    • Re:A niche chip (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 ... l.com minus city> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:55PM (#4603129) Homepage Journal

      Transmeta took the risk in having a very specialized chip--that is...it's very low power but not as fast as others

      Actually, they took a different risk. They never thought the performance would suck as much as it does. They thought they could take a very wide core and implement software emulation such that it would be faster than pure hardware solutions by making the software "smarter".

      They failed.

      Which is really not surprising. It's exactly the same delusion that makes people still think that "compilers are so smart nowadays that they can easily create better assembly code that humans" when that is and always has been patently untrue. People always underestimate the complexity of optimization.

      We will never have optimizers as good as humans until we solve the "great question" of human AI. They go hand in hand, but people just don't want to accept that.

      • Re:A niche chip (Score:5, Insightful)

        by (startx) ( 37027 ) <slashdot.unspunproductions@com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:03PM (#4603215) Journal
        actually, gcc is getting pretty damn good at assembly, at least on the x86 anyway. I was at a confrence the other day where rastman was one of the speakers, and he was talking about his new canvas library called evas. He said he wrote the speed bits in assembly by hand, and then for fun (and benchmarks) wrote it in c and had gcc compile it to asm as well. It spat out line for line what he had spent hours writing.
        • Re:A niche chip (Score:3, Informative)

          by WhaDaYaKnow ( 563683 )
          I've seen the exact same thing with the Microsoft Visual C++ compiler. Yeah, shoot me, I use it (to compile a non-M$ operating system). It's a pretty f*cking good compiler. (no offense but the assembler output surpassed the GCC compiler easily last time I checked, which is about a year ago)

          I only use the command-line compiler and from time to time I look at the assembler output. It's amazing. Proper object oriented C++ design is being translated in assembler that you could only equal by extensive use of macros and other 'tricks' that would make the assembler practically impossible to read/maintain.

          The whole trick is knowing how code is generated by the compiler. I remember from the good ole days that Torvalds would do the exact same thing: see what code is generated. This way, after a while, you know instinctively what's the best way to design and write code.

          I'm sure there are situations where a human could write better assembler than what's generated by a compiler, but if you are talking anything less trivial than an 'hello world' example, the perceived 'overhead' from a compiler would be required in assembler just as well in order to maintain readable/understandable code and design.
        • Re:A niche chip (Score:3, Insightful)

          by eMilkshake ( 131623 )
          No doubt very true overall, but the question is whether it was a fair comparison. Someone who knows and cares enough to spend hours writing a routine in assembler and who *just* wrote it in assembler probably wrote his C code to compile optimally.

          Now, what would be fair is if someone took *my* code and compared gcc's output of it with what Rastman might produce in assember. That would be interesting. ;)

          • Now, what would be fair is if someone took *my* code and compared gcc's output of it with what Rastman might produce in assember. That would be interesting. ;)

            I think more fair would be your code in C and your code in assembly. That's usually what your choices are in real life.
      • Re:A niche chip (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mocm ( 141920 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:05PM (#4603234)
        I don't think performance sucks as much as Intel may want you to believe. Take a look at this [leog.net] for some benchmarks.
        And you have to consider that all tablet with Pentium III will run at a lower speed when they are on battery.
      • by Gerry Gleason ( 609985 ) <gerry AT geraldgleason DOT com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:30PM (#4603463)
        Low power is a big win. There are blade servers based on these chips too, and you can pack a lot more low power blades into a box without cooking everything. Wasn't there a story linked here a while back about how MIPS/Watt is a more important performance metric for huge server farms?

        The number of humans that can outcode GCC is vanishingly small, and even smaller when you have to do keep track of all sorts of parallel dependencies and such. If I had to guess, I would say their problem is that they don't have the necessary capital to do the software development they would need to make this idea really fly. This seems like more of a research project than a business plan, maybe if they enlisted more support from the community by openning things up GPL style, it might have a chance.

        If you are going to make chips, you should concentrate your investment on designing and making the chips, not the software. I'm sure they could do another design cycle in more modern fab technology and get much more speed (or lower power if that is the priority).

        Also, my impression is that they aren't sharing a lot of board level IP either. There are lots of applications that are getting StrongArm and other low power processors that would be an ideal market for them, but these are all small companies without a lot of bucks to risk with new designs. OTOH, if you give them a basic design that uses your chips, and sell cheap prototyping parts and support gear, your going to get a lot more inquiries. Would this be enough to turn it around for them? I don't know, but would you bet your company on Billy G. deciding to endorse tablets? Even if they are successful, the danger is that Intel can swoop in and steal the market. You're much better off staying small and concentrating on the emerging niches. Specifically, the embedded market where Linux is already a good fit and doing well.

        Too bad, though, it was a good idea, but the timing was bad. They still have some investment money that hasn't been spent, but it would be difficult to change direction now.

      • Re:A niche chip (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        A human can out-optimize a machine for a specific task (say, a handful of routines), but the CPUs are getting so complex that general optimization is better solved in the computer space. It's getting slower and harder for humans to optimize for modern chips (look at Itanium -- multiple banks of 128 general purpose registers? how many instruction pipelines?). Yeah, given lots of time, a human can probably solve a specific case far far more optimally, but do you really want to assign one very sharp engineer to optimize all those corners, taking days or weeks to work through a handful of cycles saved, when you can throw him at the compiler's output and get better general efficiency...

        The problem is that the scope of the complexity is reaching the point where there's so much to be juggled that the group of people who can succeed is becoming very small, and the wins are so minor except in specialized circumstances, that the time cost vs. speed payoff is just not there anymore.

        It's not that a human can't do better, it's that a human can't do better before the product/project has to ship (or, in some cases, remain relevant).

      • Re:A niche chip (Score:4, Insightful)

        by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @11:00PM (#4604890) Homepage Journal
        Which is really not surprising. It's exactly the same delusion that makes people still think that "compilers are so smart nowadays that they can easily create better assembly code that humans" when that is and always has been patently untrue. People always underestimate the complexity of optimization.

        No, that is an entirely different delusion. That one is a straw man propogated by amateurs who have taken the effort to learn assembly programming feel "1337" for their arcane knowledge.

        For the vast majority of programming tasks, programming in assembly is stupid and wasteful, and the vast majority of programmers will not write better code than their compiler.

        Those who can follow something like Abrash's black book, or god forbid, are actually involved compiler research, would laugh at your statement, because they praise the gods that there is such a thing as automation and that it is possible to capture the intelligence of optimization algorithmically. There is a difference in choosing to engage in stategic optimization using assembly and the blind naysaying of deference to the compiler.

        In case you haven't noticed, people tend to underestimate the complexity of everything. Even if Transmeta has fallen short of expectations, they failed admirably and still pushed the state of the art. If people listened to the kind of criticism offered by armchair technologist slashbot trools, we'd still be writing assembly code on VAX machines.
  • by sheddd ( 592499 ) <jmeadlockNO@SPAMperdidobeachresort.com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:45PM (#4603029)
    They're so far behing on mfg technology that they're screwed. AMD or Intel can take a .13 micron part, underclock it, under-volt it and spank em silly (while getting many more chips per wafer).
  • by jazman_777 ( 44742 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:46PM (#4603040) Homepage
    and I pronounce "Microsoft" "Microsoft".
  • Irony (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:47PM (#4603053) Journal
    Fueling the frenzy was one of its lead software engineers, Linus Torvalds, who was already famous for developing the core of the Linux operating system

    Linus was one of the lead software engineers for this company, and yet it needs Microsoft to keep it from flopping? Perhaps MS can do the hardware and Linus the software, which might actually make a good product.

    What we need is linux open-sourceness with Microsoft marketing
    • Re:Irony (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jason Earl ( 1894 )

      Transmeta doesn't necessarily need Microsoft to succeed, but they do need some device that will sell millions of units. Right now their best bet is Microsoft's tablet PC. Microsoft is the only player that seems likely to spec a Crusoe in a device and then spend the advertising money that it will take to sell the darn thing.

      So far devices that require a low power x86 compatible chip have been few and far between, and when such a chip has been necessary AMD and Intel have had chips that were competitive.

  • Scary (Score:2, Redundant)

    by sheepab ( 461960 )
    Linus needs Transmeta, and Transmeta needs Microsoft.....eep! Im scared!
  • The early pioneers of the coolest ideas frequently go broke just as their ideas catch on. Is it in time for Transmeta?

    It makes me pretty nervous; I work for a start up trying to create our own market.
    • Your statement that early pioneers often fail before the idea catches on, but that doesn't really apply to Transmeta. The two cases aren't really the same.

      Tivo is a new idea, something you couldn't do before. Before Tivo, the best you could do was stick an EP cassete in your VCR and program it to record things.

      Crusoe is just a clever implementation of the old idea of "low power processor". It doesn't actually let you do anything that you couldn't before, it only provides a different set of engineering tradeoffs (how big a battery you need, what kind of software you can run). From that sense, they aren't really the "early pioneers" of which you speak. Granted, their implementation is quite clever.
  • They have Linus working for them. Why not get something that runs a linux distro on it? Would it be that hard to NOT use M$?
  • by truth_revealed ( 593493 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:49PM (#4603068)
    Transmeta to create "profit morphing" technology to turn an unprofitable business plan into to a profitable one.
    They will roll out newly patented "micro profit opcodes" to soak up Microsoft money at the molecular level.
  • Looks like the MS bashing train gets off here. I love those trans meta chips. Especially in the Sony Picture books, it has reduced the amount of heat generated by them by at least half. So if it means that I gotta Kiss MS A$$ to continue to see these, then here goes: Screw that...... APPLE ALL THE WAY BABY!!!!!
  • Yawn!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:50PM (#4603088)
    That headline is a misnomer. Microsoft is not the only company producing operating system software that could run a tablet PC. Transmeta needs Microsoft? The article didn't say that-- it said Transmeta needs customers.
  • The truth is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cervantes ( 612861 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:50PM (#4603089) Journal
    Transmeta should have realized a long time ago that they couldn't break into the laptop market (which is where they seem to have been trying to go). What Intel doesn't monopolize, AMD jumps on with greater resources than Transmeta could hope for (Hammer notwithstanding).

    The MS Tablet PC could be the best thing to happen to Transmeta. MS isn't exactly happy with the major box brands offering *nix, and inside rumours say debate over whether security should be hardware or software have put a good dent in MS/Intel relations. By going Transmeta, MS can get a good price on a suitable processor (not megapowered like the portable P4's, but perfect for the job), which means more tablets running MS software, they get a bigger say in the design of the tablet, and the poke Intel in the ass and say "Don't push your luck, big guy, we don't need you as much as you want to believe."

    And in the end, the result is just as good for open source on the tablet platform, because cheap tablets with a big company behind them will get a strong push into the marketplace, give OpenSource developers a reason to write for the tablet.

    I say, Go Transmeta!
    (hey, wasn't that a catchphrase from an 80's kids show?)
  • it reminds me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thanq ( 321486 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:52PM (#4603100)
    But it turns out that American computer users aren't interested in ultra-thin and lightweight laptop PCs. That's why Transmeta has had more success in Japan(...)

    I wonder if that has much to do with the US way of life - we see almost exact same trend in automobile and home appliance industries. People in the States like to drive muscle cars, SUVs, full sized cars, who guzzle gas like crazy. In Europe, the trend is reverse, smaller, more economic cars running on electricity or natural gas and well esablished. Here in the US, they all seem to be either developing very slow or even failing.

    Same thing with the dryers and washers. Europe in Japan goes for making them more energy efficient and smaller (due to space constraints, mainly), where here in the US we dont see much of a move away from the full sized washers.

    Because of that, I would think the quoted statement could very true.

    • by Otterley ( 29945 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:00PM (#4603189)
      The reason Americans buy inefficient products is because energy is so cheap in the USA. However, when energy becomes expensive (as it did in the 1970s during the oil embargo) to the point at which switching to something more efficient is cheaper than continuing to purchase the means to power it, you'll find that Americans will quickly dump the guzzlers.

      It's really quite simple...
    • I think it is more that Americans tend to look at initial sticker cost rather than total cost of ownership. You see this in cars and much else.

      For instance I got a front load washer which ended up costing $400 more than what I could have got a regular washer for. However over five years I should make up for that in water and power savings. (Plus it cleans clothes better and works on my sleeping bags) But front load washers aren't as popular because of that initial cost.

      You see the same thing with computers and many other things. For instance with kitchen supplies people will buy the cheap knives and silverwear rather than spending a few extra dollars for something that will last far longer.

      I don't know why this is.

      • by afidel ( 530433 )
        With cars at least it simply isn't a factor. The cost in terms of fuel for any reasonable expection of fuel costs in the next decade get lost in the rounding errors. If a vehicle costs on average 22K dollars and the cost of running the vehicle (fuel only) is around 1K/year then a 1% change in the interest rate has more effect on the tco then any reasonable change in the fuel economy. In fact if we could get people to properly inflate their tires we would get almost as much fuel economy improvements as any engine tech I have seen. True moving from SUV's and light trucks to compacts would help a hell of a lot, but I like many Americans won't give up my full size car. The reason is simple, as long as others drive 2 ton SUV's my family is not safe in a compact car.
        • Not to mention the fact that road trips are hell in little cars. I just have two kids, but there is no way I would go back to travelling with the family in the Civic now that we have a mini-van. The mini-van is easily an order of magnitude more comfortable on long trips, and the extra space means we can bring more gear. And when you live in Idaho, almost all of your trips are long trips.

    • We Americans (when exactly did the residents of Canada, Central America, and South America yield that moniker to the residents of the United States? I must have missed it) consume so much of the world's resources and gleefully create such a disproportionate amount of waste that the people whose nations are now our toilets are more than willing to fly airplanes into us.

      SUVs exist solely to circumvent fuel emissions legislation. The original Nintendo Entertainment System was a fraction of the size everywhere else in the world as it was in the U.S. -- United States consumers didn't like the small one, so Nintendo threw it into a big gray box, and it sold like gangbusters. And, while we're talking about silicon(e), How many tit jobs do you see while walking the streets of Paris? Milan? Tokyo? Lisbon?

      Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah -- Transmeta. I have no clue why Transmeta's stuff didn't really fly in the states. Someone should do an expensive study.
    • Same thing with the dryers and washers. Europe in Japan goes for making them more energy efficient and smaller (due to space constraints, mainly), where here in the US we dont see much of a move away from the full sized washers.

      Let's see, do I want to do 50 loads of wash, or three... hmmm, tough choice.
  • Or maybe... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheGreenLantern ( 537864 ) <thegreenlntrn@yahoo.com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:52PM (#4603104) Homepage Journal
    ...consumers are deciding they don't really need or want tablet PC's. Just a thought.
    • Tablet PCs are too new to come to any conclusion about the market's uptake of it. They still aren't available in stores, so it's probably better to hold off on any pronouncements like that.

      And besides, most Tablet PCs run Intel inside.
  • Speculate: 3G phones (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jukal ( 523582 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:56PM (#4603141) Journal
    ...just might be the perfect playground for Transmeta. Enough said, you speculate the rest :)
  • by renoX ( 11677 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:57PM (#4603157)
    The tablet form factor is very usefull for people working in a stand-up position: nurses, repair people, etc..

    For all the other use, a laptop or a desktop is better.
    You can type better(less error) and faster with a keyboard than with writing with a pen, even with the best handwriting recognition software of tomorrow.

    The PC industry is desesperately trying to find new ways to sell more PC, so they came up with the tablet PC, but let's not be fooled by the hype..

    Some vendors are very clever: they put both a keyboard and a "tactile" screen into their tabletPC so you can have both input mode.
    But I think that the early "normal" users after realising that there using 99% of the time the keyboard instead of the pen will think that they are using these tablet PC as some kind of overpriced laptop and will come back to laptop..
    • Remember how Ellison and lots of luminaries were telling us just a few years ago that we'd all be using thin clients in our kitchens to look up recipies from the Web? Why would anyone want raw processing power on the client side, when everything you needed could be found on the Web?

      So with tablets we're getting a bulkier PDA (which is therefore not so handy for PDA uses), yet crippled in functionality when compared to a standard laptop, and certainly nowhere near as useful for all-around home and business use as a desktop computer.

      Sure, tablets will be handy for vertical market uses. In fact, anyone who works in the shipping industry can tell you that these things have been around for years in more specialized roles. You could even argue that the Newton 2000 was a scaled-down tablet. Too big to be a good PDA, too small to offer much outside of vertical markets.

      The PC industry is desperate for something, anything, that can drive sales. So they're dressing up an old notion and calling it "innovation". Think about it. Corporate IT departments won't buy them when they've already invested in laptops. Kids won't want them, because they want game power. Ma and Pa Kettle won't want them because they don't want to write emails in longhand. It's just not gonna fly as a mass-market product.

  • OK, perhaps it uses less power than something from AMD or Intel. At first blush, this might be useful for extending battery life in a laptop.

    But how much less power for the entire system does this translate to? I'm not an expert on this, but I'll bet that LCD displays use as much or more power than CPUs. In the end, I don't expect that there is much of an impact on battery life, and thus not much of a selling proposition.

    Frankly, I've never understood why this company was funded. For that matter, I still don't understand most of the dot coms, including Amazon and Yahoo. I guess I'm just old and cranky.
  • What's the appeal? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kbielefe ( 606566 )
    What exactly is the appeal of a tablet PC? What tasks are they better suited for than a laptop or PDA? Does someone know? This seems like a classic example of cart before the horse innovation. These may be cool gadgets, but if they don't solve a problem better than existing solutions, they will never take off.
    • combine them with wireless and you quickly find out. Try walking around with a laptop and using it. You will either realize it doesn't work very well or you will end up with an expensive lcd replacement.
  • Transmeta is dying (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered Transmeta community when IDC confirmed that Transmeta market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that Transmeta has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. Transmeta is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent Tom's Hardware comprehensive CPU test.

    You don't need to be a Kreskin to predict Transmeta's future. The hand writing is on the wall: Transmeta faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for Transmeta because Transmeta is dying. Things are looking very bad for Transmeta. As many of us are already aware, Transmeta continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

    Crusoe is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time Crusoe managers David Ditzel and Matthew Perry only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: Crusoe is dying.

    Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

    Sony leader Hiroshi states that there are 7000 users of VAIO PictureBook. How many users of Thinkpad are there? Let's see. The number of VAIO versus Thinkpad posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 Thinkpad users. Tablet PC posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of Thinkpad posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of Tablet PCs. A recent article put CASIO at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 CASIO users. This is consistent with the number of CASIO Usenet posts.

    Due to the troubles of IBM, abysmal sales and so on, the Crusoe Thinkpad went out of business and was taken over by Fujitsu who sell another troubled maker. Now Fujitsu is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

    All major surveys show that Transmeta has steadily declined in market share. Transmeta is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If Transmeta is to survive at all it will be among hardware dilettante dabblers. Transmeta continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, Transmeta is dead.

    Fact: Transmeta is dying.
    • i don't think you know what you're talking about. or if you do, you are just speculating. millions of tablet pc's will be sold, with a large share of crusoe chips. also, the transmeta will surely be slower... so what. it's not about speed. i tell you what. i bet my fujitsu lifebook 2000 is a lot faster than your dead battery :) a.p.
  • by solios ( 53048 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:59PM (#4603178) Homepage
    ....maybe it's not in the cards?

    The posts in the thread already mention that the Carusoe is a niche chip- from what I've seen, it's gone horrifically under-utilized: a chip that could hypothetically be a power pc, mips, sparc, etceteras is nothing other than a super-low power x86?

    A tablet PC might be fine for some people- If the input is pressure sensitive, it would be great for the graphics field- but these really don't seem to be much more than big PDAs or totally integrated, one-piece laptops.

    What, exactly, is a tablet good for that a PDA or laptop *isn't* ? I need quick access to photoshop and apache practically everywhere I go (freelance web designer with a powerbook)- a PDA is useless for me, and the tablets I've seen don't run my OS of choice or seem to do anything I might need.

    Someone clue me- what market are tablets actually *aimed* at? A laptop is perfect for my needs, and a PDA works great for many people I know.

    If people don't need a thing, or can't find a use for it, then the only people that are going to buy the device are gadget hounds- which, in all honesty, don't seem like enough of a market segment to keep a niche industry like this afloat.
    • Someone clue me- what market are tablets actually *aimed* at? A laptop is perfect for my needs, and a PDA works great for many people I know.

      Actually, there are a number of markets where ideally a tablet PC would be perfect for. Markets like medicine, the remote sensing industry, or even the university student market. However, I have yet to see a tablet that actually works. I could go on for some time, but a small assortment of complaints include: There is not enough resistance in the way the pen moves over the surface, tablet PC's I have worked with to date do not include pressure sensitivity, and the rendering engine leaves much to be desired along with the navigability of the user interface and the connectivity technology also has not been up to snuff.

      Now, all that said, the technology exists to remedy all of these faults. I personally would like to see Apple create a tablet with a cut down version of OS X with it's Quartz/.pdf rendering engine, Bluetooth, and 802.11. Apple is probably the only company around that can actually show folks how to make the tablet concept work and actually did point the way to the current tablets with the Newton some years ago.

  • by airrage ( 514164 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:00PM (#4603185) Homepage Journal
    Intel can afford to sell chips less expensively than it normally would in order to gain a foothold in a given market--and it has proven its willingness to engage in price wars.

    This is the crux of the article, predatory pricing: airline seats, xboxs, OSs, etc. Sell the low-margin product at a loss to sell 5 high-grossing products for an AVERAGE price greater than your competitor. Even if the tablet PCs are a hit, they'll get squeezed when Intel wants that market share. So one foot in the grave at this point ...

  • Point missed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by halftrack ( 454203 ) <jonkje&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:01PM (#4603193) Homepage
    Some people seems to miss the point. Transmeta doesn't need Microsoft for it's OS or software, but for it's marketing powers. Microsoft and Bill Gates are in the process of creating a new buzzword; tablet-pc.

    Transmeta is a relatively small, backbone company and cannot market its products properly this is why they need Microsoft, not because of their <flame>marvellous</flame> operating system. As a slightly on-topic sidenote it seems that though Microsoft used to be about making programs they've shifted towards being about marketing and should anyone ever put them out of the software business I guess they could start making commercials.
    • MS used to be all about operating systems. Then, they starting with general purpose software, then hardware, and now becoming a marketing force. What's next? I can tell you...meat ratings. Instead of USDA Prime in 5 years it will be RibXP.
  • not attempting to be narrow-minded, but why would i want to write, when i can type? my writing is horrible and i type much faster, so while i appreciate the techie part of making a tablet work, i don't see the value.

    i could see the value of something like the current ibook, that folded all the way around and looked like a tablet, and enabled with touch sensitivity.

    for me, that would be a better solution.
    • same thing has been puzzling me..

      just about the only good places of home use for it i can think of are taking it to wc to watch a movie, or taking it to wc to browse.

      let's face it, zaurus is great BECAUSE it has keyboard(and powerful and versatile enough to run ssh and others). why would somebody want a bigger product, with inferior features?(oh wait talking about ms...). i can't friggin write on paper the speed of my typing, even on my zaurus and i'v just used zaurus for couple of hours of my live. sure it(table-pc) could be fun as _part_ of laptop, when reading books or long texts & etc, but that's just about it.

  • Business strategy?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stevenp ( 610846 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:03PM (#4603212)
    From the very beginning Transmeta did not have a clear market strategy. They grabbed some attention at the time, mostly because of their hidden development and braveness to face Intel. Linus was another marketing trick (quite successful). But to survive in the market a clear business strategy is a must, not just a "nice to have". They tried to use (and open?) a new market niche - the low-power mobile devices, that was not existing. The chance was little and it mostly did not succeed. The company is however popular in Japan, which had always had a market for ultra-little things. So things fall now in place - it is very hard to use a new market segment, where there is none. (Anyone Iridium phones?) The Japan-s are known to value the small things and are ready to pay real cash for the same functionality, just smaller. It is in their culture, so Transmeta was just doomed to succeed there.

    Nuff said, mod me now
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Tablet PCs are yet another ill-conceived product that Microsoft's "innovation" is foisting on the marketplace. Anyone who has ever owned or used a PDA will tell you that they are wonderful but for the lack of a keyboard. Some PDAs are even reverting to keyboards: see Zaurus and some Handspring and Palm models.

    Tablet PCs are giant PDAs...or standard notebooks with a touchscreen but no attached keyboard. Either way, they are in a perfect middle ground of maximal uselessness. Yes, many will have a wireless keyboard that can be used, but what's the point? Get a notebook.

  • Transmeta is selling to the OEM's in the consumer electronics market which has essentially stalled and is showing no signs of recoverying anytime soon.

    Transmeta has been relegated to this dwindling, competative market, because they were booted from the more competative dwindling server blade market.

    I hope the technology lives on, and a deep pocket buyer can be found that's willing to ride out this economy, but my forcast is that Transmeta folds and there's a fire sale by 3rd quarter next year.
  • by SlashChick ( 544252 ) <erica AT erica DOT biz> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:08PM (#4603257) Homepage Journal
    I was really interested in getting a Sony Picturebook. This was about 4-5 months ago, when the latest ones had not yet hit the United States. I asked a client of mine, who is Japanese, to get me pricing. He obliged, but only after warning me about the Transmeta processor. "It doesn't work well when you try to run multiple applications," he said. "Everyone says it's slow."

    I asked him who had told him that. He said it was the Sony rep at the store where he bought his Vaio. Uh-oh.

    I knew a Transmeta 867MHz processor wouldn't perform as well as an Intel 867MHz processor, but I did some digging and was shocked to figure out how much slower it really is. Check out these benchmarks [tomshardware.com] from Tom's Hardware. The Transmeta 600MHz processor got stomped by a "vintage" PII/366MHz notebook. That's terrible.

    To me, small size and battery life rank higher on my list than pure performance. Still, the Transmeta processors run so slowly that the only way I could justify buying one is if they had 5+ hours of battery life. But they don't [sonystyle.com] -- the PictureBook is only advertising 2.5 hours of battery life. Compare this to the (admittedly larger) 3.7-pound IBM X30, where Walter Mossberg put one through the grinder [wsj.com] and got 3 hours and 29 minutes of battery life. IBM is claiming 5+ hours in BatteryMark for the same laptop.

    Transmeta did one thing, and that was to get Intel turned on to the fact that consumers want good battery life in notebooks. I think the quote from the article puts it best: "Intel's focus on battery life happened because Transmeta pressured them into it... forced them to do something different. The good news is you've got a giant to acknowledge you but the bad news is you've woken the giant."

    Right now, the giant is still stomping Transmeta, and I doubt that tablet PCs will really put Transmeta back in the running. Whatever Transmeta can come up with, Intel has proven that they can match. Transmeta might make initial inroads, just like they did on subnotebooks, but eventually Intel will again wake up, and this time I don't think Transmeta will survive.
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:12PM (#4603296) Journal
    Apple always needs new, slow chips for their computers.

    Put the gun down! I was only kidding!

  • by Chad Page ( 20225 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:15PM (#4603324) Homepage
    - Not making a small, widely available motherboard that hobbiests and integrators could just go out and buy. VIA came out with this and there's a whole small scene (mini-itx.com, et al) playing with it. This market could have been Transmetas, but they only recently put out a motherboard for developers that costs ~$600.

    - Switching from IBM to TSMC before the latter worked out their .13u production issues. This cost them *a lot* of momentum.
  • One of the reasons im so unsatisfied with the tablet pc is that it uses a moving,mechanical,hardrive.

    With a delicate HD in it, the tablet pc really does not deliver much value over a laptop.

    Unfortunately, palms are far too low powered (in many aspects), and have far too small screens to be usefull.

    Still, given the type of day to day lifestyle I lead, I'd currently choose a well configured asian (since they really have better palmlike devices over there) see http://www.linuxdevices.com/articles/AT8728350077. html
    since its soemthing that I can cary around without treating it like a fragile baby.
  • Transmeta: Microsoft, I need you. I'm sooo sorry. Please I won't try and hurt you again.

    Microsoft: I don't know if it can work anymore. These are tuff times baby.

    Transmeta: Please, oh Please!

    Microsoft: You still with Linux?

    Transmeta: Ohh noo I was just using Linux to my advantage, I really love you.

    Microsoft: Well, ok. We'll try and make it work.

  • The Ad (Score:3, Informative)

    by The Dobber ( 576407 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:25PM (#4603423)
    I'm writing to share a tragic little story.

    My compnay has a processor that my friends and I are trying to market. One night, I was tallying up sales on it, when all of a sudden I went berserk, we were losing money, money, money. All of it. And it was a good design! I had...........

    My name is Linus Torvald, and I made a deal with the devil.

  • I had a conversation with a friend today (yes, I have friends, and some of them are real) about Microsoft, tablet PCs, MSN 8 (with it's low-profit DSL) and Vivato's new phase-array antenna for 802.11b.

    Imagine what Microsoft could do if they installed these antennas in large cities, offering MSN 8 and their tablet PC. They could leapfrog many of the broadband provider without having to aquire the "last mile".

    Offer the tablet PC with Windows XP, bundling it with MSN 8, and then selling Office XP to all those people.

    After all, if the tablet PC thing takes off, it's a new market that Microsoft has to dominate or their whole house of cards falls down.

    There will be no point in buying Vivato during the IPO - the shares will go sky high, but what about buying stock in a company down the line, like Microsoft? That's a deal with the devil.

    And to make this somewhat on-topic, it could be good for Transmeta if Tablet PCs take off.
  • by kipple ( 244681 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:33PM (#4603491) Journal
    1. benefiting from Microsoft isn't actually a bad issue. After all, if it wasn't for M$ we wouldn't have such cheap PCs, nor Linux installed on them. This may seem a weak point, but I think that it could help to simplify the issue. The real point, now, is that Microsoft is in such a position that they can force Transmeta not to support Linux on their CPU.

    2. Maybe Transmeta should have waited few more years, and jump out with a brand new processor when all other Bigs would be "forced" to build Palladium- CPUs.

    Just few thoughts.
  • by u19925 ( 613350 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:35PM (#4603514)
    Microsoft, Intel and other big companies drive consumer psychology to define "what is needed". Thus they control the mindset, e.g. "GHz+ PC is NEEDED". Other than gaming, nearly 90%+ consumer PCs that I have seen, can accomplish their task with just 100-300 MHz processor with CPU load of 20-40%. Tablet PC? Who needs one? Not until MS, Intel scream loudly. Then all of sudden, students will be required to have one (note that some colleges require laptop with MS OS on it).

    My wife did a course on Unix at UC-Berkeley. AOL, PC, MS Office were required for that course. This is the success story of AOL-Intel-MS which managed to sell themselves to a Unix student at UCB. Transmeta is just not big enough to sell themselves in a crowded market all by itself. Linux will not help them. They will need Microsoft support (who else can help them in x86 market). Most likely, even MS will not help them. They will exploit Transmeta to force Intel and AMD to come up with low-cost technology for tablet-pc that they won't to push through consumer's throat.

  • by asv108 ( 141455 ) <asv@ i v o s s . com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:44PM (#4603584) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I love my Trasmeta powered Fujitsu p-2000 lifebook. It's not the fastest thing in the world, but it packs DVD/CD Burner with firewire, usb, and everything else you would expect in one of those gigantic Inspirons, but is neatly placed in a 3.5 lb package with a small footprint. I wrote a little review here [phataudio.org].

    That being said, the idea that the "tablet revolution" is long overdue is complete BS. I haven't seen so much hype in at least five years when by now we were all suppose to be using thin client java terminals, and all content would use "push technology." Tablets are going to be great for specialized industrial applications but they are not going to replace laptops. People who think otherwise are the same people who think the Segway will be replacing the bicycle in five years.

  • Long overdue ??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Archfeld ( 6757 ) <treboreel@live.com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:47PM (#4603605) Journal
    I'd say if it was overdue then there is actually a need/desire for tablet PC's ??? I can't say as I've ever encountered it or someone who could point out a burning need that could not easily be fulfilled with the existing technology, ie a laptop or pda. It is the same problem that the PC market is seeing, why upgrade ?? beyond a couple of games, a 600 Mhz cpu does everything just fine. Until the new 'killer app' arrives and needs massive cpu power things are not going anywhere fast. CPU's far outpace the rest of the architecture now. While the geek factor might drive some sales, it certainly isn't going to make the industry retool at enormousn cost for VERY LIMITED BENEFIT.
  • I handled a Transmeta-powered HP tablet running XP. 'My Computer' properties showed it was a 700 MHz Transmeta with some odd amount of RAM, like 236 MB or something really strange. (I guess it had some odd amount shared for video.) Overall, it seemed rather pokey, like w2k on a 233 with 128 MB. Basic boxes, like My Computer's properties or Display Properties took a few seconds to show up, as opposed to <1 second on my w2k/PIII-733 I have sitting here next to me. However, it had enough juice to play an AVI back full-screen without dropping frames, which is all I really care about from any device. :-) Plus, it was really, really cool, and the handwriting recognition was a good system and accurate. I can't wait for them to come out and drop about 2/3 of the price--I was told the one I handled would be about $2000+ when it hit the market. Thank God for St. Moore and his fabulous law.
  • It seems to me that if people that it might be over due because it's not due at all. Perhaps no one really wants or needs them right now if ever? Market dictates certain things such as these, and if the market dictates no such want or need, then companies based on these ideas that are not wanted or needed will either adapt or fail.
  • by fferreres ( 525414 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @08:09PM (#4603808)
    And efficient low voltage CPU means nothing if you monitor and HD eat a high share of your batteries. The agregate "power saving" of using a crusoe instead of a low die underclocked pentium is negligible.

    If any other company could deliver a really low power display, and a really low power bus/memory then things would be completely different.

    If a miracle happens and very low power displays and storage is achived, transmeta could make a real difference. The bad thing is that in this case, probably a low power pentium could also deliver what the consumer wants (ie: if you can have your tablet on for 2 days with pantium and 4 with a crusoe, both good be prety usefull. Who needs the 2 extra days).

    They are doomed, they should focus on teaming with whoever is trying to lower power consumption of the other devices, and focus on the flexibility of the crusoe in the meantime.
  • by samdu ( 114873 ) <samdu@@@ronintech...com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @08:58PM (#4604219) Homepage
    I've said it before and I'll say it again. Tablets will only be successful in vertical markets. Sure, they may sell some at first because of the GeeWhiz factor, but writing on the screen is simply less efficient than typing. If Transmeta and/or Microsoft is/are pinning their futures on tablets, then a rough future it/they will have.
  • by Royster ( 16042 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @10:54PM (#4604857) Homepage
    It works just fine here on my ProGear from SonicBlue. I'll be rebulding the OS and window manager sometime soon so that I have more applications.

    We doan need no steenkin' Microsoft.
  • by ddt ( 14627 ) <ddt@davetaylor.name> on Wednesday November 06, 2002 @12:51AM (#4605558) Homepage
    What they needed then and need now is a comprehensive, grass-roots developer support program and to get humble quick about the power and performance.

    It's a nifty freaking technology, and it was a LOT of fun to play with. Did you realize that the Crusoe during the launch party was the fastest native picojava bytecode processor in the world? Did you realize that had they exposed an interface to CMS (code morphing software), that someone out there could have written a PowerPC personality for it, allowing it to run both x86 and PPC apps at the same time? Can you imagine what else you could do with access to this incredibly powerful, real-time, back-end compiler? Did you realize that you could decode, issue and retire two integer ops and an MMX or fp op on every cycle, the same decode rate as a modern Athlon and a faster decode rate than the P4? Did you realize that all the tech is in place to allow you to download CMS upgrades that vastly improve performance? Did you know they have a perf monitoring tool that puts vtune to shame? Did you know that using gdb connected as a cross-debugger, you can hit "ctrl-C" in an NMI handler or anywhere else and get a complete dump of the internal processor state, including numerous perf statistics?

    Tip of the iceburg for the current core, and their next generation architecture (TM8x00) is SO MUCH COOLER. Like hella-cool with chocolate sauce.

    But you probably didn't know any of this because they don't think developers are their #1 customers. Someone there needs to watch Ballmer do his developer dance [msboycott.com].

    Crusoe's are cool. Transmeta was cool, too. Working there was like working down the hall from about a dozen John Carmacks. You could walk into any one of these offices and be blown away by what they were working on. They were crossing real-time translation and optimization bridges that Intel won't be getting to in years but will eventually have to face.

    Microsoft learned long ago how important developers were. That should have been the main market to chase. Crusoe wasn't ready for the masses, not by a long shot. The performance is catching up with a vengeance with every new core, but they made so many promises and IPO'd on so much hype, that they entered the classic promise debt trap that so many dot-coms fell into, and their lofty marketing plan claiming that benchmarks are "wrong" (please!) and that it offers this brilliant power savings are just goofy.

    Had they remained lean, not staffed up to 400+ people from the 150ish they had when I joined, and stayed quiet, humble, and in the service of developers until developers helped propel them to mass marketability, they would not be the laughing stock they are today.

    Yes, they hoped to be faster than "native" x86 based computers by morphing to VLIW, but what they didn't realize was that there would be a terrible price in instruction bandwidth. They ended up with a lemon, made lemonade, then added red food coloring and called it wine.

    If they exposed an API to CMS, I think they would be truly impressed by the tricks that independent developers could come up with to compress their own instruction stream to make the compression ratio competetive with x86 code footprint.

    Do you realize that's really the main performance problem with Crusoe? The instruction bandwidth! On average, x86 instructions, because they're variable width and byte granularity, are 6X smaller than the average Crusoe instruction, which is made up of two or four 32-bit atoms in the current architecture.

    OK, that's too darn bad, but it's the youngest surviving newcomer to the x86 market, and this is a solvable problem, and "with many eyeballs, all problems become shallow," once said a bright chap who ought to put his foot down and say it again.

    Tablets: I made the demos that ran on tablets for their shows and IPO roadshow. They're cute, fun, no market for them yet, but again, something to get in the hands of developers so that they can make killer apps to create a market for tablets.

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!