Aussie take up slow for Transmeta chips

Despite a more energy efficient architecture than its rivals, notebooks using chips from mobile chip specialist Transmeta have found little space on Australian retailers' shelves.

Gartner analyst Andy Woo said Transmeta’s chips held advantages over other brands for notebooks, but this didn’t mean they would be everywhere.

“Transmeta does have some unique technologies like low power usage, but at the end of the day it’s marketing capability that’s important," Woo said. "Intel still dominates brand awareness, it has about 95 per cent of the market.

“[That’s why] Transmeta’s penetration in Australia is not much different to the rest of the globe, it’s still fairly low,” Woo said.

Since releasing its battery-preserving Crusoe processor in late 2000, manufacturers like Sony and Fujitsu have used Transmeta chips to power their notebooks.

However, IDG enquiries found a dearth of Transmeta-based notebooks in the Australian market.

Dick Smith Electronics does not stock a Transmeta-based notebook but Plus Corporation said it did, despite its online catalogue.

Harris Technology did stock Transmeta-based Sony notebooks but they have now been discontinued.

A spokesperson for Sony said it last released a Transmeta-based notebook in Australia one year ago.

Despite its distribution trouble though, the US chipmaker will release the world's first 256-bit chip, the Astro mobile processor, in the third quarter of this year.

The Astro will sport an architecture redesign and will clash with Intel’s Banias mobile processor and forthcoming wireless architecture, Centrino.

“Centrino will give new spin to the mobile space,” said Woo. “It will be interesting to see how the Transmeta chips rate after we see that.”

Transmeta communications director, Phillip Bergman, told IDG that while the company had no dedicated Australia-based representative it was the decision of Transmeta's customers as to where Crusoe-based products were distributed.

"However, we are being aggressive about increasing the number of Crusoe-based products and the geographic diversity of our customers," Bergman said.

Transmeta’s chips differ to traditional processors by being software, not hardware, based.

“These processors are able to adjust, up to 200 times per second, to deliver the performance a computer user requires based on the specific task being undertaken by the end user,” Transmeta director of marketing, Mike DeNeffe, said.

“For example, DVD play is very performance intensive, but typing a document in Microsoft Word is much less so. By adjusting performance to each task, much like the automatic transmission in a car, the Crusoe processor is able to extend battery life."

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