Transmeta unveils plans for TM8000 processor

Executives from Transmeta Corp., which specializes in designing low-power microprocessors, outlined Wednesday initial plans for a new 256-bit microprocessor.

The new chip, which the company has named the TM8000, will offer significant advantages over the current TM5x00 line of chips, said David Ditzel, chief technology officer of Transmeta, speaking in Tokyo.

With the processor, Transmeta will switch to a 256-bit VLIW (very long instruction word) which will allow the computer to carry out twice as many instructions in one clock cycle as current processors. Energy efficiency will see a 47 percent improvement and performance will be between 2 and 3.5 times better than the company's current chips, according to Ditzel.

The company offered little more information about the chip and said nothing about availability.

"We have not said anything about availability and, based on what happened with the TM5800, maybe we won't make any predictions," said Ditzel. He was referring to the late arrival of Transmeta's latest commercial processor, which was delayed last year by problems that chip manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) was having getting its latest and most advanced production line into full operation.

Ditzel and Matthew Perry, the recently appointed chief executive officer of Transmeta, were in Tokyo to announce a new company strategy called "Japan First," which is intended to bring the U.S.-based company closer to its Japanese customers.

Transmeta's focus on Japan is not surprising. Its focus on low power consumption processors is matched by a growing preference for portable computers among the Japanese public. Notebook computer sales are on the verge of passing desktop computer sales and many of the world's largest personal digital assistant makers are based here.

The company's chips can be found in three hot-selling subnotebook PCs that have been released in the first few months of this year: Toshiba Corp.'s Libretto, Fujitsu Ltd.'s Lifebook and Sony Corp.'s new Vaio U. Hitachi Ltd., Sharp Corp. and Casio Computer Co. Ltd. also have Transmeta-based notebooks and NEC Corp. has put a Transmeta processor in a desktop machine.

"In this country, people really appreciate very long battery life and very interesting form factors," said Perry. "And we have been very successful."

As a result the company relies heavily on Japan for its revenue. In the first quarter of the current fiscal year, 92 percent of Transmeta's net revenue came from Japan, a figure which is up from 55 percent in the year earlier. The vast majority of this revenue came from two major customers, the company said in its most recent SEC filing.

Beyond Japan, Perry also said he hopes to expand the company's geographic base to include more customers in the U.S. and Europe.

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