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Transmeta Businesses Hardware

Transmeta Mulls Exit From Processor Market 202

chill writes "C-Net is reporting that CPU upstart Transmeta, once the employer of Linus Torvalds and maker of 'Code Morphing' processors, is contemplating leaving the chip manufacturing business. Already their IP licensing revenue exceeds that of their microprocessor sales, though both are dwarfed by their recurring quarterly losses."
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Transmeta Mulls Exit From Processor Market

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  • by JessLeah ( 625838 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:15PM (#11264667)
    Virtually every field nowadays seems to be ruthlessly dominated by one or two (if you're lucky, three) titanic competitors. Trying to break into an existing market is tantamount to financial suicide. Not because newcomers have bad ideas or make bad products-- but because the "mindshare" of the unwashed masses is so stuck on the existing titans..

    McDonald's and Burger King for burgers.

    Coke and Pepsi for cola.

    Nike and Reebok for sneakers.

    Microsoft and .... well, Microsoft for operating systems.

    Dell and HP/Compaq for x86 computers.

    ATI and nVidia for graphics cards.

    And... Intel and AMD for x86 CPUs...
  • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:16PM (#11264678)
    Taking on Intel and AMD head-on is always an unlikely path to success. Still, the next big thing in processors has to come from somewhere, and if you can get enough funding to keep it running for 5 years it would be fun to try!

    One key though: your first release would have to be tremendously successful right out of the gate, if not in sales at least in buzz. Transmeta's first releases were, well, who knows. So I guess they weren't successful.

    Next move: sell to Intel for $50 million. Sorry investors! At least you gave Linus a place to work for a few years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:18PM (#11264706)
    TM always avoided industry standard benchmarks. That is always a bad sign.

    Instead, they always had some loser from marketing spout about efficency, blah, blah, efficency. I still have those emails and they are very funny.

    While I worked at a major OEM developing blade servers, we evaluated their processors and the performance was very weak. De-clocking existing proven designs was a better alternative.

    As is often the case with weak products, non-disclosure agreements precluded benchmark publication and disclosure of evaluation results.

    RIP TM.
  • Power Requirements (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rpozz ( 249652 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:21PM (#11264724)
    I think one of the problems they had was that a CPU with low power requirements is only particularly useful in embedded (ie handheld) devices, and thus x86 compatibility is not that useful. The embedded market was/is already heavily controlled by ARM-based CPUs to begin with.
  • Re:So, basically (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:21PM (#11264731) Journal
    Yeah, its kind of sad to see that these days the money really is in being one of the pure-IP companies we all hate.

    At least Transmeta is doing this all above board with actual public licensing of their technologies instead of just sinking unsuspecting companies with lawsuits fired by submarine patents years after the technology has settled into use.
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:21PM (#11264732)
    "Trying to break into an existing market is tantamount to financial suicide."

    No, trying to break into an existing market with a sub par product is financial suicide. Face it, Transmeta dosn't make anything that people want. Their much vaulted code morphing has never been used, so they have a CPU that can emulate x86 poorly. Where is the value? Why should I buy a system that uses this CPU when for the same price I can get another that works better? Via has them beat in terms of price and wattage, Intel and AMD have them beat in terms of price and performance, in the embedded market the PowerPC and ARM series are better in every way. Let me put it this way, if it was Intel who had released the Transmeta CPU would you still think it was worth while?

  • I almost made it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer ( 103300 ) * on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:25PM (#11264769)
    Eating a Wendys burger with a can of RC Cola, Wearing British Knighs Snearkers, Running OS X, on a Power PC Processor, but I have a nVidia graphics card... Damn! I guess I am just a Puppet of the Man!

    Actually they are 3 Mega Corps but the #3 is usually far behind, but still close enough to get good Profit.
  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:26PM (#11264774) Homepage Journal
    That can actually work.

    If you are only losing money because of the development costs, then you can make it up on volume as you have more sales to amortize the development costs over. If you're still losing money even without your fixed costs, though, you're completely hosed.
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:28PM (#11264797)
    I think the biggest reason why Transmeta can't compete in the x86 CPU market is the marketing success of Intel's Centrino mobile processing technology, with lower-power motherboard chipsets and the low-power Pentium-M CPU's.

    Why bother with a company with a relatively short track record compared with Intel's long track record?
  • by glrotate ( 300695 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:35PM (#11264861) Homepage
    There just wasn't any demand for another slow low power x86 clone. The "code morphing" was nearly useless and failed to deliver what was originaly promised.

    More a case of too much hype too little substance.
  • by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:42PM (#11264924)
    They could have made a niche for themselves in the embedded market. There's plenty of room for fast, low-power x86 despite the ARM's and Power PC's. The problem is that they didn't go after it.

    The embedded market requires processor chips that have integrated peripherals - serial ports, ethernet, digital I/O, along with glue logic so that low speed flash memory and I/O can be easily attached to it. Transmeta went for the laptop market and only paid token attention to the embedded market.

    Dispite the lack of peripheral support, I tried to get information from Transmeta about using their parts in embedded applications. I filled out nondisclosures and market survey qualification forms and got nothing in return.

    All this is sad, but not new. They had the arrogance of a company that is certain they are doing things The Right Way and no humility to listen to perspective customers.

    They might have been a little more humble and responsive if Linus hadn't worked for them.
  • by SoTuA ( 683507 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:46PM (#11264963)
    Ayuh, Nike and Reebok have got the market cornered. Nobody gives a damn about the small [], unknown [], irrelevant [] players [] in the sneaker market.
  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @01:47PM (#11264991) Homepage
    Logically you'd expect Intel, IBM or AMD to snatch them up as some sort of IP asset or leverage against a competitor, but Intel's scrambling against AMD, which hasn't exactly had lots of money to burn on other fronts, which left IBM who probably will pick up the ashes, unless Microsoft does and uses it for their Windows Processor ...

    Naw, they'll just snarf up as many of the good engineers as they can, which is what they've been doing all along. Cheaper in the short run, and more valuable in the long run. What would you rather have -- some IP that you may or may not ever use in an actual product, or the minds that came up with that IP and made it work in the first place?
  • There were a few products that had transmeta CPU's. The problem was that there was a very small window when there was a significant adavantage to choose a Crusoe. Now there is not one. On the Low end there is a the Via C3, that is about as efficient as a Crusoe. On the high end there is the Intel Pentium M. A bit more power hungary but also better performance.
  • Java processor? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quixote ( 154172 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @02:02PM (#11265144) Homepage Journal
    I always wondered: with their "code morphing" technology, why didn't they turn it into a Java processor, with the ability to execute Java code natively? Yeah, I am aware of Sun's past efforts in this direction; but imagine if you will: Java apps running natively at the same time as Linux apps. Even if the processor is 3x slower than a x86, Java running natively would be comparable to Java running under VM on an x86 (please, I don't want to start a flamewar about Java's speed here).
  • Transmeta (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MemoryDragon ( 544441 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @02:07PM (#11265215)
    Sad to say that, but Transmeta marketing is to blame. Face it, Transmeta could have had the market via now has with their C3 and Intel partially holds with their Pentium-M Centrino. The main problem was, that Transmeta went from day 1 to the manufacturers only, and were leaving the early adopters hardcore system builders out. Add to that an emerging home theatre pc market which Transmeta failed to cover that way (nobody bought at the early stages a HTPC from a manufacturer and most people still dont do due to DRM and other nastyness)

    and a VIA which just said to the people, we are not fast, but they can handle the stuff you want to do with your HTPCs self made routers, firewalls, fileservers (you name it), we are cheap you can buy our stuff from the next vendor on the net and we will support you, and Transmeta was on a losing ground.

    On one hand there was ARM which only sold cores and they did need less power, on the other hand there was VIA with the mentality you can buy our stuff even as a private person, and on the Notebook computer segment there were the Heavyweights Intel and AMD crushing Transmeta left and right.

    So where did Transmeta stand there, basically nowhere because they refused people (and there were thousands who wanted to buy that stuff at an affordable price) the hardware, by selling only reference designs and not having others selling decent boards to an affordable price. Add to that that in Europa and other markets you basically could not get the stuff and that interested people were complaining in forums about that situation for years and you have a company doomed from day 1.

    Now they want to concentrate on the core selling business, I wish them good luck they will need it, between a very good ARM on one side and VIA which still also sells boards to people if they need them on the other side and an Intel with a very good low to medium power solution on the server/notebook corner of things. Also IBM is in the business or at least other companies selling cores on the based PowerPC design.

    Guess it is time to say to Transmeta, goodbye it was nice knowing you. (Hopefully not but there is a high chance)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @03:34PM (#11266771)
    They never came out with a consumer motherboard.
    Geeks can't easily test products they can't easily buy.
    Note (shriek, actually) to proc makers:
    If you invested enough to make the cpu, offer a damned mobo at an accessable price!
  • Re:Transmeta (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bani ( 467531 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @09:29PM (#11271328)
    and a VIA which just said to the people, we are not fast, but they can handle the stuff you want to do with your HTPCs self made routers, firewalls, fileservers (you name it), we are cheap you can buy our stuff from the next vendor on the net and we will support you, and Transmeta was on a losing ground.

    thats precisely the problem though. transmeta wasnt cheap. they priced themselves out of the hobbyist market and aimed squarely at laptop manufacturers. their developer support was also very poor. via's isnt great but at least you can make most of the stuff work.

The Force is what holds everything together. It has its dark side, and it has its light side. It's sort of like cosmic duct tape.