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Sybase chip backing gives Transmeta boost

The database software company agrees to back a new semiconductor from Transmeta, a company that's seeking to establish itself as a rival to chipmaker Intel.

NEW YORK--Database software company Sybase has agreed to back a new semiconductor from Transmeta, a company that's seeking to establish itself as a rival to chipmaker Intel.

Sybase?s database software for operating systems Linux and Microsoft Windows will now run on systems powered by the Transmeta chip, Chris Kleisath, director of product management for Sybase's mobile and embedded division, said today.

Although Sybase won't be a Transmeta customer, its endorsement is a significant step in establishing the nascent chipmaker?s credibility. Analysts have applauded Transmeta's technology but have also expressed caution as few customers have signed on to use the chip.

The company has already announced that S3's Diamond Multimedia division will use the chip in a handheld Web browser.

Transmeta has developed a combination of a new chip, called Crusoe, which incorporates a special type of software that allows the chip to behave like an Intel processor. The company is gearing the technology for use in mobile devices such as portable computers and handheld Web-browsing tablets. The chip technology consumes little power in comparison to conventional processors, and thus will roughly double battery life, the company claims.

Sybase sells database software both for large computer systems used by businesses, and for smaller devices such as Palm Pilots, Kleisath said. Smaller, portable computers are typically used by businesspeople on the road who need to keep track of their own data and periodically synchronize it with a back-end corporate database.

At the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here today, Sybase demonstrated the smaller database on a Crusoe-powered laptop running the Linux open-source operating system.

Linux works similarly to the Unix operating system and is likewise popular for use in servers. But unlike Unix, Linux is making inroads into the market for devices such as set-top boxes or gadgets to access the Internet, a market that Transmeta also has its eye on. Microsoft has been trying to spread its own Windows OS to gadgets and servers, a move that hasn't been as successful as its desktop software business so far.

Transmeta chief executive Dave Ditzel said yesterday that a Transmeta initial public offering could come as early as this year.