Sony readies laptop based on Transmeta chip

The one-watt, Intel-compatible Crusoe processor allows laptop batteries to last longer, a prospect consumers have been waiting for, said a Sony spokeswoman.

At $US2,300, the 2.2-pound Vaio CIVN PictureBook uses a Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition operating system, with an 8.9-inch wide liquid crystal display screen, built-in digital camera, 128MB of random access memory (RAM), a 12GB hard drive, integral v.90 modem and USB (universal serial bus) port. Battery prices rise to $US500 for the quad capacity unit. The laptop uses a 600MHz Crusoe chip.

"Benchmarks are a very real issue," said Mark Margevicius, an analyst at technology market research firm Gartner Group. "We haven't had [the] product to test. I'm anxious to see [the PictureBook]; it is very promising ... but we advise clients not to get caught up in the hype."

Transmeta announced that it had signed up Sony to its growing list of clients in August when it introduced the 700MHz TM5600 Crusoe processor targeted at notebooks. Several major vendors, including Hitachi, IBM and NEC, had already showed off prototypes of lightweight notebooks based on the Transmeta processor at the PC Expo in New York in June. Taiwanese contract manufacturer Quanta Computer is reportedly getting ready to start shipping limited volumes of a Crusoe-powered version of IBM's ThinkPad 240 notebook.

An IBM spokesman Thursday declined give further information about the company's plans, saying only that IBM was evaluating the use of Crusoe processors and has not yet committed to any details regarding usage of the chips.

It would be ironic if Sony ships its Crusoe-powered PictureBook before IBM since a Big Blue unit, IBM Microelectronics, is manufacturing the Crusoe processors for Transmeta, which is a so-called fabless semiconductor company with no production facilities of its own.

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