IBM puts Transmeta plans on hold

Big Blue suspends plans to include Crusoe processors from Transmeta in its ThinkPad 240 notebook line, despite earlier expectations.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read
IBM has suspended a project geared toward releasing a ThinkPad notebook containing Crusoe processors from Transmeta, company executives confirmed Tuesday.

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IBM decision trips up Transmeta
Linley Gwennap, Principal Analyst Linley Group

The reversal couldn't come at a worse time for Transmeta, as the company is slated to hold its initial public offering on Nov. 6, according to the Web site of principal underwriter Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

IBM has canceled a project for adding Crusoe microprocessors to its ThinkPad 240 notebook, saying that the notebook does not fit within its current marketing plans, according to a company spokesman. In June, Big Blue had showcased a ThinkPad 240 containing a Crusoe chip at PC Expo.

The company will continue to examine Transmeta technology, but there are no plans for Crusoe-powered notebooks in the near future, the spokesman said.

"The 240 project has been put on hold," the spokesman said. "But we continue to look at Transmeta on an ongoing basis."

IBM had not officially committed to releasing a Crusoe notebook commercially, yet Transmeta and IBM executives in June acknowledged that Big Blue was gunning to release a Crusoe-based ThinkPad in the fourth quarter of this year--if plans remained on track.

IBM had earlier enlisted Quanta, a Taiwanese notebook manufacturer, to manufacture the ThinkPad 240.

Transmeta specializes in notebook processors that consume less power than chips from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices. Transmeta notebooks promise to weigh less and consume less power than other notebooks on the market.

While Sony and other Japanese manufacturers have announced plans to release Transmeta notebooks, IBM's support was seen as a major victory. IBM is one of the largest notebook manufacturers in the world.

IBM's semiconductor division is also manufacturing the Crusoe chip on behalf of Transmeta.

While IBM officials did not precisely clarify why the project was cancelled, analysts speculated that the relative performance of Crusoe chips could be a factor.

Crusoe processors do not directly run Windows programs from Microsoft. Instead, programs are filtered through an additional "code-morphing" software layer, which can diminish performance. Transmeta executives have said that because of code morphing, a 700-MHz Crusoe processor performs more like a 600-MHz Pentium chip.

Early benchmark tests, however, indicate that a wider performance discrepancy may exist.

If Transmeta can't offer an equivalent performance to competitors' chips, "Intel starts to come back with a good story," said Linley Gwennap, an analyst with the Linley Group.