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Commentary: Don't rush out to buy a Transmeta-based laptop

The first products based on Transmeta's long-awaited Crusoe chip have finally been shipped. But most people should probably wait before buying these and other Crusoe-based devices

    By Mark Margevicius, Gartner Analyst

    The first products based on Transmeta's long-awaited Crusoe chip--laptops from Sony and Hitachi--have finally been shipped. But most people should probably wait awhile before buying these and other Crusoe-based devices.

    The Crusoe chip is certainly a

    See news story:
    Notebooks with Transmeta chip arrive in U.S.
    promising development for the IT industry, which has long been dominated by market leaders Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). Crusoe's chief selling point is that it produces less heat than competitive Intel and AMD chips. As a result, Crusoe-based devices should use less battery power and--because they do not need fans and require less insulation--should also be thinner and lighter. However, Intel and AMD are well aware of Transmeta's goals and have countered with their own technologies for optimizing power management and increasing battery life.

    Crusoe-based computers are a major milestone for Transmeta and a critical step toward long-term viability for the company. Nonetheless, Crusoe-based devices will likely appeal most to a niche market: mobile users who want a small, light computing device but believe current personal digital assistants aren't powerful enough.

    One concern is that current industry benchmarks do not offer an accurate assessment of Crusoe's hardware and software architecture, so product comparisons to traditional x86-based PCs are largely meaningless. Real-world experiences that gauge performance and battery life with standard applications will be the true test of whether Crusoe's performance--and ultimately its architecture--are acceptable.

    Because of those unresolved issues, Gartner believes that Crusoe-based products are today appropriate only for niche requirements. Gartner recommends that other people wait until manufacturers have two full generations of proven Crusoe-based product under their belts before seriously considering them.

    (For related commentary on Transmeta's Crusoe chip, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

    Entire contents, Copyright © 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.