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Hitachi launches Transmeta-based Internet appliance

The Flora-ie 55mi--a combination of a notebook, a handheld and a cell phone--is launched in Japan and eventually will come to the United States.

Hitachi has begun shipping an Internet appliance that contains a Crusoe processor from Transmeta.

Hitachi's Flora-ie 55mi is a combination of a notebook, a handheld and a cell phone. The device, which looks like a notebook screen with buttons down one side, hooks up directly to the Internet and is used to search Web content or run applications, similar to a standard PC.

The device can be used on a desktop with a keyboard or removed from its docking cradle for roaming. Besides the keyboard, a stylus can be used to input data, like on a Palm. The device also contains a mobile phone interface for calls.

Like the Crusoe-based Internet terminal released by Gateway and America Online in November, the Flora will contain a version of Linux. Transmeta notebooks--including Hitachi's Crusoe notebooks--run Windows.

While initially available only in Japan, Hitachi will also bring the product to the United States, according to Transmeta.

"Transmeta's Crusoe microprocessor allows Hitachi to put all the power of a PC into a handheld computer with up to seven hours of battery life," Transmeta CEO Dave Ditzel said in a statement.

The past two months have been a hectic time for Transmeta, which says its chips consume less power than competing processors from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices.

Days before its initial public offering, Transmeta was stung when IBM announced that it suspended development on a ThinkPad containing a Crusoe chip. IBM subsequently said that the notebook would use a low-power Pentium III from Intel.

Despite the revelation, the company saw its stock price more than double from its IPO price of $21 on the first day of trading Nov. 7. A week later, Ditzel said in an interview that the company would come out next year with a new version of its code-morphing software--a crucial element to Crusoe chips--that would allow Transmeta to undercut Intel. The stock hung in the low $50s.

Then in December, NEC announced that it was recalling its Transmeta-based notebooks because of a flaw with some of the chips put into the notebooks. Sony warned customers of a similar potential problem but stopped short of a recall. Even though nearly 300 NEC notebooks were affected by the recall, Transmeta's stock swung back toward its IPO price.

Since then, it has climbed back to the $30s.