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Transmeta takes tiny steps outside PC market

The chipmaker aims to bring power efficiency in a small package to hardware ranging from computer terminals and blade servers to printers, copiers, and consumer devices.

Transmeta on Monday revealed a pair of Crusoe processors designed for just about anything but a PC.

The company, which made a name for itself by designing small, power-efficient chips for notebooks, said it designed the new Crusoe TM5700 and TM5900 chips to offer the same attributes for hardware ranging from computer terminals and blade servers to printers, copiers and consumer devices.

The 1GHz-capable chips, which are half the size of their TM5800 predecessor, come in packages that measure just 21 millimeters by 21 millimeters. That means they can fit more easily inside devices such blade servers, Transmeta said in a statement. It's also likely to help customers who use the chips to design smaller devices as well.

Transmeta, which plans to make the chips available this month, has been wooing non-PC hardware makers for some time in an effort to expand its presence outside the PC world and boost its revenue. In January 2003, the chipmaker launched the Crusoe SE, a line of chips designed for devices such as cash registers.

"By delivering a solution that is 50 percent smaller than our existing Crusoe TM5800 processors, Transmeta allows system designers to further leverage the high-performance and low-heat dissipation characteristics of Transmeta's proven hardware and software architecture for a wide range of new smaller form factor, fan-less designs," Matthew Perry, Transmeta's CEO, said in a statement.

Although both Crusoe processors use the same circuitry and are capable of 1GHz clock speeds, they do differ to some extent. The TM5900 chip includes 512KB of Level 2 cache, where the TM5700 includes 128KB. The cache, which creates a pool for data close to the processor core for quick access, helps increase performance. Generally, a larger cache offers more performance.

To date, Transmeta said that a number of companies are working with its new chips. It named Wyse Technology, which manufactures thin-client devices, as one company that plans to offer products based on either the TM5700 or the TM5900.

Later this quarter, Transmeta will begin offering a TM5900 reference platform, which will include a design guide, schematics, processor specifications and software, to help potential customers evaluate the chip and begin designing products around it.

While it is working to raise its profile outside of the PC, Transmeta is still seeking new customers in the PC realm as well. Last October, it launched the Efficeon, a higher-performance processor designed for notebook PCs. The chipmaker is expected to discuss the Efficeon processor and possibly unveil new customers who are using the chip at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.