Low hype on low-power chip

Leo Suarez, director of worldwide product marketing at IBM, said the first prototype is a stock IBM ThinkPad model 240 that has undergone no special modification to incorporate the Crusoe processor, a ultra-low-power chip that has gained much attention since being introduced by Transmeta.

"With this technical demonstration, we are trying to fill a requirement we have had in the mobile space since day one," which is a smaller, lighter laptop computer that operates for the entire length of the business day solely on battery power, Suarez said.

"What we are doing is taking our thinnest, lightest offering and marrying that with the Transmeta device to see if we could actually deliver on that lost promise of value. It should last for an 8 hour day, and we want to see if we can actually get there. I'm not claiming that what we will have is an 8 hour machine, but that's what this demo is about," Suarez explained.

IBM's hesitancy to make claims associated with the Crusoe processor is even more obvious in the company's strategy to first tour with the prototype before making any formal announcement on the integrating the single-watt processor into its mainstream mobile computer offerings.

"Over the next couple of months we will talk with customers and gauge their interest [in the Crusoe-powered ThinkPad], and if we determine the customer feedback is positive, and our engineers can reach the set of criteria we are trying to get to, we will have a formal announcement of the ThinkPad with Transmeta chip sometime in the second half of this year," Suarez said.

IBM initially will target small start-up companies and progressive-minded customers who tend to be early adopters of cutting-edge technologies.

Big Blue will then turn its attention to its large accounts and enterprise customers, seeding them with sample machines configured in the same way as the initial demo system. If corporate customers like what they see, according to Suarez, IBM will go forward with full-scale production of business grade systems equipped with the Crusoe processor.

Up until now, most performance benchmarks done on the Crusoe processor have been run on Linux. Going with Windows 2000 required no special tuning to make the hardware and software compatible, Suarez said, adding that the choosing Windows was a response to customer's preferences.

"Transmeta has a ton of data on the performance of their processor, and their running and testing figures are equivalent to any Wintel offering," Suarez said. "That's the challenge Transmeta has as a company. They have a to prove to the industry they have a better mousetrap."

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