Nvidia's mobile chips could get Transmeta technology

Nvidia may put Transmeta power-saving technology in products for mobile phones and laptops.

Nvidia could put new power-management technology from Transmeta on products such as chips for mobile devices and graphics processors for laptops, the company said on Thursday.

Nvidia's licensing of Transmeta's power-management features applies across all of the company's products and technologies, Nvidia said. Nvidia makes system-on-chip processors, graphics chips and chipsets.

Transmeta's LongRun2 technology is designed to manage power and control leakage to make chips more power-efficient.

The technology could apply to Nvidia's system-on-chip for cell phones announced earlier this year, called Tegra, which includes a graphics processor. Specific details about products with LongRun-based technology will be announced in the future, said Derek Perez, an Nvidia spokesman.

Nvidia on Wednesday agreed to pay Transmeta a one-time licensing fee of US$25 million.

"We are using power-management technologies already, but with their LongRun Technology, we can leverage this technology to improve the power/performance metrics of our products moving forward," Perez said.

The technology may go into Nvidia's traditional graphics chips as a power-management tool to avoid chips overheating due to thermal stress, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. In May, Nvidia reported some of its graphics chips had failed due to thermal stress.

The deal doesn't appear to bring Nvidia closer to building x86 chips that would compete against those of Intel and AMD, a move that has been widely rumored. Although Transmeta has made x86 chips in the past, including Crusoe, this agreement doesn't give Nvidia a license to execute x86 code on its chips, Brookwood said. The move is more relevant to developing circuits designed to reduce leakage and save power, and not a passage for Nvidia to enter the x86 market to compete with Intel, he said.

Many chip makers, including Intel, are trying to develop power-saving technologies for chips, but Transmeta was the first to build them, Brookwood said. Intel licensed Transmeta power-management technologies, including LongRun2, after settling a patent dispute with Transmeta for $250 million last year.

Transmeta's technology can be applied to a range of devices including cell phones and appliances. NEC uses the LongRun2 power-saving technology in its M2 cell-phone chip, which is based on an Arm core.

The deal between Transmeta and Nvidia may have been reached because Nvidia feared a patent-infringement suit by Transmeta, Brookwood said.

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