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Transmeta Technology

Where is Transmeta Heading? 192

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

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

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

    Oh, except for that famed 50+ mpg engine....
  • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) * on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:00PM (#12120208) Journal

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

    Kind of a delicious irony there... employing Linus and striving to hamstring Linux...
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:02PM (#12120214) Homepage Journal
    then bye-bye
  • not another one (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FidelCatsro ( 861135 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [orstacledif]> on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:04PM (#12120234) Journal
    "Will the planned restructuring to a pure IP company help?"
    We do not need another Patent acruing company trying to screw with the tech econmy , Fair enough they jmay have good intentions now with this action but how long before "just this one" mentality takes over and they start sueing left right and center.
    If they would like to become a research company working for others to develop tech , then fair enough but not an IP company .
    I admire the transmeta chips and would think it a great shame if the company goes under , but i don't want to see another patent group .
    I Hope they get bought out by a firm in the industry
  • by WebHostingGuy ( 825421 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:10PM (#12120259) Homepage Journal
    The transition to an IP selling to others sounds like a bad idea for the company. I know several people who are chip designers and it seems there is a lot of competition in this area now. And the people I talk to do the design in house. Unless there is some great achievement no one is going to pay for IP to someone else when they can do it for themselves right now and have the staff and resources to do it.
  • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eln ( 21727 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:10PM (#12120266)
    The problem is the chips are just too damn slow. Intel's chips in notebooks run hot and suck power fast, but they don't run hot enough or suck power fast enough to make people want to significantly decrease the performance of their notebooks for less heat and longer battery life.

    Intel has put billions into R & D over the years to make their chips small and fast, and they are now starting to put money into making them more power efficient. Transmeta can't compete with that sort of hardware engineering with software alone. In addition, the idea of running multiple instruction sets on the same chip is not that big of a deal in an x86-dominated world. Transmeta had a good idea from a software engineering standpoint, but there's no market for that idea.
  • by Proc6 ( 518858 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:12PM (#12120272)
    Only marketing points that ever stuck in my mind about their CPUs were,

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

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

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:14PM (#12120284)
    No IP company can exist off of a single idea for very long. IP companies have to innovate continuously in order to survive. Any given piece of IP they own will eventually be copied or sold, or the market for it will simply dry up for any number of reasons. The fact that Transmeta has not come up with anything significant since their initial "big thing" leads me to believe they're going to have a very hard time surviving as an IP company for very long.
  • by JamesP ( 688957 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:17PM (#12120295)
    Tranmeta processors: the best thing there WAS in notebooks, power-consumption wise.

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:28PM (#12120339)
    the *only* reason why slashdot cared about transmeta was because linus was hired by them.. no other reason. the simple fact is that this company is a failure so could we please, please stop talking about it? it's going to go bankrupt like 99% of all startups, so it's really not that big of a deal. their technology really wasn't that great because intel smothered them with additional versions of their centrino chip. too bad so sad.
  • Re:Goes to show (Score:4, Insightful)

    by avalys ( 221114 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:29PM (#12120341)
    Who says Transmeta had a good idea? They never delivered on any of their promises: long battery life, "code morphing", and all that. All they had was a slow, perhaps moderately efficient, processor that didn't offer any significant advantages over its competitors.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @01:47PM (#12120412) Homepage
    Transmeta's story is funny. Their big idea was supposed to be "code morphing", or on-the-fly recompiling for a different CPU. But it turned out that they achieved some success because they were the first to take on-chip power management seriously. That gave them an edge for one development cycle. Then, Intel and AMD noticed that power management mattered, and fixed their parts. End of Transmeta.

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

  • Re:Willies (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @02:24PM (#12120548)
    Okay, I admit it's a little knee-jerk but how many successful, in the contributes to society domain, strictly IP companies are there?

    Thousands. What are you talking about?

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

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

  • It seems that many companies are getting these MBA-dominated bright ideas about getting out of the manufacturing business ... they'll just license their creations and MAKE MONEY FAST!

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

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

    You're a chip manufacturer. You design and make chips. Then your company "matures" (actually, it goes insane with greed) and brings in execs from outside and directly from business school.

    These idiot savants tend to belong to the Cult of Money and Style. They don't rise through the ranks of industrial processes, hence understand little about how real products are made for sustainable market share and profits.

    So, these gee-wizards start to ditch the manufacturing side of your business. They do this since some spreadsheet showed them:

    1. The Sales Department is wildly profitable, since it makes all the revenue and only costs some salaries and promotion.
    2. The Manufacturing Department is wildly lossy, since it has no income and costs a lot of money for salaries, materials, equipment purchase and maintenance.

    Unfortunately, these boy geniuses don't realize that chips are made in a broad partnership between the creators (designers) and the makers (engineers). You cannot long design something without running into a snafu in the manufacturing process, hence your design must change to reflect it. But (for some bizarre reason which suggests pervasive brain damage in most MBAs) the execs start thinking that they can only design chips and let some other sucker incur the "costs" of manufacturing. They start thinking that designers toss stuff over a wall to the engineers.

    So we end up with a company like Transmeta. It is probably committing suicide, in the modern example of cutting off your own arm since you need to eat some more meat. That's OK, since competitors will then just move in and buy up the assets of Transmeta for pennies on the dollar (which is what they were really worth in a true sense).
  • Re:Help .... who? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:51PM (#12121021)
    Ummm.. you mean the famed 150+ mpg engine or something right? 50 mpg isn't exactly new.. hell even things like the chevy sprint 3 cylinder which was sold in the US was pretty close.

    A lot of current production cars in Europe are much better than that already. You won't find such "underpowered" cars in the US because there isn't much of a market.. gas isn't expensive enough yet and Americans like their muscle cars.
  • Re:Goes to show (Score:3, Insightful)

    by avalys ( 221114 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @03:54PM (#12121039)
    Okay, maybe I was a little casual with my wording.

    Transmeta did have a good idea, but they couldn't bring it to execution. The grandparent seemed to imply that this was somehow the fault of the 800lb gorillas (Intel and AMD) exerting their market dominance, but in reality it was just Transmeta not being able to deliver a desirable product that brought them where they are today.
  • Re:Help .... who? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Saturday April 02, 2005 @05:21PM (#12121584)
    Isn't this how many technologies make it to the consumer? Company A invents it, goes broke trying to sell it, then the big players buy it cheap and finally the rest of us get to use it?

    "The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
  • by MrResistor ( 120588 ) <peterahoff@noSPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday April 03, 2005 @05:31PM (#12128550) Homepage
    Harsh, but true.

    I probably would have bought one if they'd been available at a retail price.

    And hey, if nobody wants to sell your product in Europe, sell it in Europe yourself. Honestly, how much does it cost to hire a couple of regional salesdrones? Just off the top of my head, one each in France, Germany, and England, strategically positioned near major industrial centers, would probably more than pay for themselves, even in the short term.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray