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Transmeta: Notebooks to rescue Crusoe

After delays that socked the chipmaker's revenue at the end of 2001, the company says a trio of new notebooks using its delayed chips will help spur its recovery.

Chipmaker Transmeta said a trio of new notebooks using its delayed chips signals its own recovery.

Notebooks from Sony and Fujitsu use Transmeta's new Crusoe processors, which had gone through a lengthy delay that cut Transmeta's quarterly revenue and hammered its stock price.

The Crusoe 5800 and 5500 chips, announced in June 2001, were originally slated to ship in the second half of 2001. But production problems limited Transmeta's ability to ship large numbers of the new chips.

Sony's new PictureBook, the PCG-C1MV, contains a 733MHz version of the new TM5800 chip. The 2.2-pound computer also offers an 8.9-inch display. Starting at $1,899, PCG-C1MV is available through retailers and Sony's Web site.

Due next week, Fujitsu's LifeBook P-2040 will include the TM5800 chip running at 800MHz and 802.11b wireless. The notebook, which weighs 3.4 pounds, will come with a 10.6-inch screen and start at $1,499.

The company's LifeBook P-1000 will be outfitted with the 700MHz TM5500 chip. The 2.2-pound machine with an 8.9-inch touch screen was designed for several specific jobs, such as collecting data on medical patients at a hospital or tracking inventory at a warehouse. It will go on sale next week starting at $1,499, a Fujitsu spokesman said.

Because of delays, Transmeta suffered a net loss of $23 million in the fourth quarter of 2001, excluding charges. Its net revenue totaled only $1.5 million during the quarter.

The chipmaker also lost some of its momentum, analysts said. Transmeta had spent the first half of 2001 signing up new customers, including NEC, Toshiba and server maker RLX Technologies. During that time, it said a range of new notebooks containing the TM5800 would debut in the second half of 2001.

But its chip problems caused many customers, such as Sony, to delay their 5800-based notebooks. Other customers, such as Toshiba, canceled product plans.

Transmeta now says it's on the road to recovery, delivering more chip to its customers than in previous months.

"We've been increasing our deliveries to customers, and we are looking good on our 5800 recovery plan," said Transmeta spokesman Philip Bergman.

Transmeta has nowhere to go but up these days, analysts said.

"Ultimately, it's not in dire straits. It's got a whole lot of cash in the banks and it's got some good technology," said Mike Feibus, principal analyst at Feibus Strategic Consulting. "But it's running out of strikes. It will have to connect on the next swing or two...or sell, or go under."