Transmeta unveils Crusoe TM6000

Transmeta on Monday announced at the Microprocessor Forum the Crusoe TM6000 processor, the company's first system-on-chip designed for embedded devices and the ultra-dense server market.

The Intel-compatible processor, which is expected to begin shipping in the second half of next year, will run at speeds up to 1GHz but also stick to Transmeta's goal of low power consumption, David Ditzel, vice chairman and chief technology officer for Transmeta said in a phone interview prior to the announcement.

Transmeta is aiming the 0.13-micron Crusoe TM6000 at the gap it sees between low-end RISC (reduced instruction set computing) processors and high-end RISC processors. "There is a huge gap in between those two kinds of chips," Ditzel said. "The x86 processors really get the high-end performance levels at the low end of the cost range."

"It doesn't take much to build a complete system with this device," Ditzel said. The Crusoe TM6000 includes north bridge and south bridge chip sets, which connect the CPU with I/O (input/output functions) and the front-side bus, as well as a USB (Universal Serial Bus) controller and integrated graphics, Ditzel said.

Transmeta designed the Crusoe TM6000 for devices the company calls "embedded convergence devices." These range from routers and set-top boxes to DVD (digital versatile disc) players and high-end print servers, Ditzel said. "A lot of the people who have traditionally been using RISC chips are now looking to move to x86 chips," he said. "Especially in devices where people want to use a lot of existing x86 software, whether Linux or (Microsoft Corp.) Windows."

However, one analyst said the company is entering a highly competitive market.

"It's a crowded area," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group Inc. "Even in the x86-compatible space it's crowded," he said. National Semiconductor Corp., Via Technologies Inc. and even Intel Corp. are trying for that market, Enderle said.

"There are a lot of folks in that space chasing business, and some of them have better channel relationships than Transmeta," he said. "However, (Transmeta's) approach could provide them with a competitive advantage if they can hit their cost targets," he said. Currently, Transmeta has only said the chip will be priced "competitively."

Transmeta has also added some features to the new chip that are aimed directly at the ultra-dense server market, including support for ECC (error correcting code) memory, which checks and corrects code errors in memory. The Crusoe TM6000 also supports up to 2G bytes of RAM and is Transmeta's first chip to support DDR333 SDRAM (double data rate synchronous dynamic RAM), Ditzel said. "We've had DDR before, but it was limited to DDR266," he said. DDR333 memory offers faster performance.

Moreover, the power consumption of the Crusoe TM6000 will be even lower than that of existing Transmeta chips, because the company's LongRun power management feature has been extended to north bridge, south bridge, and graphics, Ditzel said.

This is the most impressive aspect of the chip, Enderle said. "They've integrated most things on it that eat power," he said. "They were able to address a good cross-section of the platform and place it under power management."

Transmeta also announced that its delayed 0.13-micron Crusoe TM5800 is expected to ship this quarter and will reach speeds up to 1GHz in the first half of next year. The 0.13-micron manufacturing process should allow Transmeta to make processors that run faster, generate less heat and consume less power than did its earlier 0.18-micron chips.

"This still looks good on paper, but until it shows up as a product, it doesn't do them any good at all," Giga's Enderle said.

The Crusoe TM5800 was originally scheduled to ship in June, but earlier this month Transmeta said it hadn't yet finished testing the chip and testing would be completed this quarter. The Microprocessor Forum, in San Jose, runs from Monday, Oct. 15, through Friday, Oct. 19. More information can be found on the Web at http://www.mdronline.com/mpf/index.html/.

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