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Transmeta Mulls Exit From Processor Market

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the they've-already-made-it-up-in-volume dept.

Transmeta 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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Meanwhile, in Lost Wages... (5, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264613)

Already their IP licensing revenue exceeds that of their microprocessor sales, though both are dwarfed by their recurring quarterly losses."

And yet they're going to the CES in Lost Wages. (Booth 36235, LVCC)

[Hello! My name is ARTHUR SWIFT] "Hi, these are our microproceesor products, which cost more to make than we sell them for. We're thinking about breaking into the game console market next. Losing money seems to be working for the X Box!"

whoa (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264629)

first keanu post

I thought they were doing so well... (0)

binderhead126 (809883) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264639)

Crap, now where will I get the processors for those cool mini-ATX boards?? They serve a niche market, and should have a sronghold on their market, what the hell??? Really nice of you guys... Huh?? OHHH, YOU have a happy new year TOO?!?!?!

Re:I thought they were doing so well... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264657)

how about where everyone else get's them??

cyrix?

out of the 3000 mini-itx motherboards I have touched i have seen NONE with a transmeta processor. I saw cyrix, intel and AMD...

in fact I have NEVER seen a transmeta processor let alone anyone selling them.

Re:I thought they were doing so well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264775)

How about Sony? Their VAIO's ran trnasmeta chips, I believe. At least for a while, anyway.

http://reviews.designtechnica.com/review33.html

Re:I thought they were doing so well... (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265011)

IBase MB860, Mini-ITX, TM8600 Efficeon.

$485 at Logic Supply [logicsupply.com]

Re:I thought they were doing so well... (1)

Heftklammerdosierer! (846009) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264677)

From the article: "There are some necessary economies of scale in the processor market, and they need to be about 10 times larger than they are," said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research.

Re:I thought they were doing so well... (3, Informative)

kaos.geo (587126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264755)

You neednt worry... VIA is taking care of most of those ;). Check out www.mini-itx.com BTW it's really a dissapointment that transmeta wasnt a success, but at least they tried!

So, basically (2, Funny)

wiredog (43288) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264641)

they'll become a pure dot-com in an attempt to improve matters.

They're doomed.

Re:So, basically (2, Insightful)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264731)

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.

Re:So, basically (1)

miu (626917) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264946)

At least Transmeta is doing this all above board

Which guarantees their loss all the more, the people they are competing with in the IP business are parasites with no ethics. At some point there will be a window in which the failing Transmeta will be subject to takeover by a vulture herder like Canopy. The zombified remains may lurch over the landscape for several years and sue everyone the real Transmeta ever did business with.

Transmeta Inside? (1, Offtopic)

dteichman2 (841599) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264649)

Never even knew they existed. Wow. I guess either they couldn't compete, or they sucked.

Re:Transmeta Inside? (1)

drakethegreat (832715) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264697)

Me neither. Well I've heard of them but neve known anything about their product. To run a good business, you have to not only have something people want but you have to actually market it with skill and have good business practices. For instance Krispy Kreme the donut maker that is pretty famous these days has always enjoyed long lines and an incredibly high yield of demand. Yet according to a report I heard they may not make it because they spent the money in the wrong places and now they are going to be struggling to survive. Just goes to show you have to have people who know how to market it correctly...

Re:Transmeta Inside? (1)

Blue-Footed Boobie (799209) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264737)

...or it could be that their doughnuts are little lard-bombs that are excellent as a laxative, but sub-par as a doughnut.

Re:Transmeta Inside? (1, Offtopic)

sphealey (2855) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264728)

Never even knew they existed. Wow. I guess either they couldn't compete, or they sucked.
Sorry I can't help with the modding - this post is both on-topic and reasonable. Harsh and perhaps a bit snarky, but it shouldn't be modded down for that.

sPh

Doom Inside (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264730)

Never even knew they existed. Wow. I guess either they couldn't compete, or they sucked.

Well they fell into the trap of ending a processor line with -eon, which never set well with me. I mean, it practically screems 'Solutions', which is what people add to marketing babble when their actually stumped when trying to explain what their product actually does.

The secret behind marketing -> "it's supposed to be a go-faster, use-less-power device which has built in flexibility of use ... let's look up some word in the dictionary and cement -eon onto the end and go get drunk."

You mean drunkeon... (1)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264914)

:o)

Oops! Hindsight is a real mother (4, Interesting)

OtLa (844129) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264656)

"...Transmeta is reporting a further reduction in power requirements by 44% and sees the laptop and sub-laptop markert as the primary markets for their new CPU. Intel and AMD claim to be catching up with the Transmeta chips in terms of power requirements..." Yup, that worked out well.

Note to Slashdot (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264658)

When your front page starts consisting of stories that have appeared several hours before on fucking OSNews of all places, it is time to consider suicide.

Slashdot - News for nerds, stuff we culled from some hairy Greek she-male's excuse for a website.

Re:Note to Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264780)

"hairy Greek she-male"

Uh, can I have pictures?

This is what happens in today's "free market". (4, Insightful)

JessLeah (625838) | more than 9 years ago | (#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...

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (4, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 9 years ago | (#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?

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264806)

a CPU that can emulate x86 poorly. Where is the value?

Itanic! Intel needs to buy transmeat, bolt the x86 emulator on to itanic, and pretend they havent wasted years and billions developing a CPU thats funkier than the i432.

AMD64 isnt a great instruction set when compared to sparc or alpha, but stacked against the horror of itanic its sublime.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264950)

### Face it, Transmeta dosn't make anything that people want.

I know quite a lot of people who would have loved to have a low power CPU that is x86 compatible in their desktop computers, the throuble is that Transmeta failed completly to sell their stuff. You simply couldn't by a mainboard with a Transmeta CPU, the only stuff that got ever released were some sub-notebooks in japan.

That transmeta CPU also fall a bit short when it comes to speed is of course another issue, but simply because you couldn't buy the CPUs at all in the first place is the reason why they completly failed to sell.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (2, Informative)

Kenja (541830) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264977)

"I know quite a lot of people who would have loved to have a low power CPU that is x86 compatible in their desktop computers"

Then they should buy one. Get a P4-M, Athlon Mobile or Via C3 system. All of which are low power, low cost and run circles around what Transmeta has been trying to sell.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265213)

ARGH! It's the PENTIUM M, NOT the Pentium 4-M that's the fast low power one! Say "Centrino" if you can't figure it out...

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (4, Insightful)

swv3752 (187722) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265019)

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.

I almost made it. (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:I almost made it. (1)

zoeblade (600058) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264949)

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!

Yeah, grow your own damn food. :)

Re:I almost made it. (1)

Miffe (592354) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265025)

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!

Yeah, grow your own damn food. :)


I'll be impressed when he grows his own graphics card

Re:I almost made it. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264996)

Eating a Wendys burger with a can of RC Cola, Wearing British Knighs Snearkers, Running OS X....

I used to love the RC cola commercial that poked fun at conformity. I thought they were effective as ads; but then again what does a geek know about the sensativities surrounding conformity....as you can tell from my spailing.

Re:I almost made it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11265077)

But then basically, you're just a burger-chomping, cola sucking, sneaker wearing, computer geek.

Hardly a paragon of non-conformity and free thinking !

Re:I almost made it. (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265102)

Ijit. Use an XGI graphics card. ;-)

There's actually a BUNCH of big players in graphics. Intel (the 800lb gorilla of GPUs, FWIW), ATi, nV, S3, Matrox, 3dLabs. Whew. Intel is good in low-end, ATi and nV are good in mid to high-end 3D, S3 is good in... nothing, but their GPUs make Intel's look good, Matrox is good in high-end 2D, and 3dLabs is good in workstation 3D.

Re:I almost made it. (1)

Elwood P Dowd (16933) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265177)

"The RC Cola brand was acquired in October 2000 by London-based Cadbury Schweppes plc. Today, RC Cola continues under the ownership of Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper/Seven Up, Inc., the largest beverage subsidiary of Cadbury Schweppes plc."

I haven't seen an RC Cola in stores forever.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (5, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264793)

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..

You overlook a once tried-and-true strategy, which doesn't seem to have happened in this case:

Devise some clever new bit of technology

Burn venture capital (or even your own money if you're confident) waving it under the big noses in the industry.

Sell out

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 ...

(Please note, I did not include

...
and

Profit!!!
above. Thanks.)

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264991)

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?

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

afd8856 (700296) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265124)

Does this mean that there would have been, by a weird twist of fate, an actual chance that Linus would have been employed by Microsoft? :)

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264794)

Lets fill in the blanks. Usually there are 4 vendors that occupy 80% of a market.

McDonald's and Burger King for burgers.

Coke and Pepsi for cola.
- Snapple
- Water
- Milk

Nike and Reebok for sneakers.
- New Balance
- Dollar General Store

Microsoft and .... well, Microsoft for operating systems.
- There's more OS than I can shake a stick at.

Dell and HP/Compaq for x86 computers.
- Home Brew
- Local Vendor

ATI and nVidia for graphics cards.
- S3 based chipsets
- How about no graphic card for remote servers

And... Intel and AMD for x86 CPUs...
- Power PC
- All the big name such as Sun and IBM make Chips

Thinly veiled troll, but I'll bite (1, Informative)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264801)

I've been bitchslapped for reading anti-slash.org, so I'll never have karma. You're setting the market up as a straw man here - we have some 1GHZ Transmeta blades here, and they're as slow as molasses in winter. Their stuff is either crap, or they haven't found the right market. Either way, good old supply and demand kicks in - no demand, so they can't move any supply, and thus, are bleeding cash.
When they come up with a cheap x86 CPU that performs (Via anyone?) then maybe they'll ship some units.

Re:Thinly veiled troll, but I'll bite (1)

RWerp (798951) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265042)

Yes, and Via sell their CPUs under a new name... VIAgra CPU.

Re:Thinly veiled troll, but I'll bite (1)

klipsch_gmx (737375) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265121)

I've been bitchslapped for reading anti-slash.org, so I'll never have karma.

Fellow Jihadi, take heart, for your rewards will be great in heaven.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (2)

IWorkForMorons (679120) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264835)

It's not so much that all of these dominate companies in their respective fields are the only ones making money, or even control over 95% on the market. Possibly with the exception of computer related things at least. Even still, for the small competitors, the point is not to take on the giants but to exist and make money amoung the giants. Last I heard, Wendy's wasn't doing too bad. And I still see a lot of Jolt Cola around, so some people must like it enough to buy it. Even Microsoft has to start worrying now that Linux is mainstream [slashdot.org] and making money. There will be other competitors to the Intel/AMD battle, most likely from China in about 8-10 years. So don't worry, as long as some people don't go crazy with the IP and patent laws the free market will work fine. Besides, if Transmeta stays around and keeps innovating instead of dying out, then dropping out of the chip manufacturing market will be a good thing...

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264838)

Makes you wonder if the two companies could be in collusion to get around monopoly laws, eh?

No, it was a just bad product. (2, Insightful)

glrotate (300695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264861)

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.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

Alci12 (698263) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264874)

Actually it says more about the free market determining that only 2-3 large corportations can be sustained by said market in some segments. Having 20 small firms always on the verge of bancruptcy is not the sign of a healthy market either.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

LaCosaNostradamus (630659) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265058)

Mod this man up! I rail frequently enough against irresponsible concentrations of wealth, but lets' face the fact that you must concentrate wealth to get things done. A few market leaders (using the 80/4 rule where about 80 of the market is monopolized by 4 large firms) is ecnomically healthy. Where this breaks down is the point where the public is unwilling to regulate general business behavior, and monopolies in particular.

The parent post's comment about 20 nearly-bankrupt firms is quite insightful. Anecdotally, I see this happen with used bookstores all the fucking time. It seems that some lazy n00b in an area wants to make money without working for it, so he opens another used bookstore ... making the 3-10 other used bookstores in the area groan under the increased weight of their rents, utilities and the like, what with further lost customers.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264883)

McDonald's and Burger King for burgers.

I stick with Chez Malc. It's been years since I ate at one of those places. Whilst they're sticking with their trans fatty acids, I'm using free-range beef for a fuller flavour!

Coke and Pepsi for cola.

Nah, I just stick with water plus washing up liquid or bleach if I want to wash my floors. I always found that brown stuff did a good job cleaning but left things sticky. Dunno why anybody would want to put it in there stomachs.

Nike and Reebok for sneakers.

I got an ITBS injury with Nikes. Now I use New Balance for running.

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

Ahh shit, you got me! Can I blame my employer in an attempt to ingratiate myself?

Dell and HP/Compaq for x86 computers.

Mine's home built.

ATI and nVidia for graphics cards.

Bollocks. You got me again.

And... Intel and AMD for x86 CPUs...

Okay, I'll shut up.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

(startx) (37027) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265068)

Nike and Reebok for sneakers.

I got an ITBS injury with Nikes. Now I use New Balance for running.

Amen. Nike's killed my legs. Knees, shins, hips, you name it, the shoes broke it. I went to a real shoe store [fleetfeet.com] and was fitted with a proper pair New Balance running shoes, and haven't had leg problems since.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

AceCaseOR (594637) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265104)

I shop here [payless.com] myself. Great prices, and they've got shoes in my size. (I've found shoes in my size hard to find, generally).

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (2, Interesting)

HeghmoH (13204) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264930)

Your markets are totally stuffed. It's not "burgers", it's "fast food", and there are zillions of viable competitors, from Taco Bell on down to the local burrito place.

Likewise, the market isn't "cola", it's "non-alcoholic drinks", which has tons of competition.

Sneakers might be the right market, but there seemed to be plenty of competition last time I was in a shoe store.

For OSes you are right on the mark, of course.

Again, "x86 computers" is the wrong market, the right market is "desktop computers". In any case, Dell and Compaq combined own significantly less than half the market.

The market is right for "graphics cards", but I don't think the companies are right. ATI and nVidia have cornered the high-performance end of things, but there still seem to be others on the low end. I might be wrong here.

The only fields dominated by one or two competitors are either those which are a natural monopoly (OSes on your list) or those where you have to squint very, very hard for your argument to look correct.

The "two player" sneaker market?!? (2, Insightful)

SoTuA (683507) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264963)

Ayuh, Nike and Reebok have got the market cornered. Nobody gives a damn about the small [adidas.com] , unknown [converse.com] , irrelevant [newbalance.com] players [puma.com] in the sneaker market.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (2, Informative)

bad-badtz-maru (119524) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265005)

Financially speaking, Wendy's does better than Burger King. In addition, Subway is the world's second largest fast food franchise, not Burger King.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11265055)

-> McDonald's and Burger King for burgers.
Wendys? Sonic? A&W?

->Coke and Pepsi for cola.
7-Up? Dr.Pepper? A&W?

->Nike and Reebok for sneakers.
New Balance?

->Microsoft and .... well, Microsoft for operating systems.
Linux? Apple? BSD?

->Dell and HP/Compaq for x86 computers.
Apple? Home-Brew? IBM?

->ATI and nVidia for graphics cards.
Yes... And they complete very well.

And... Intel and AMD for x86 CPUs...
Yes...

Branding isn't everything (though it is important) (2, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265164)

but because the "mindshare" of the unwashed masses is so stuck on the existing titans..

Not disagreeing with you as branding is amazingly powerful, but there is more to it than that. Those big companies also have a lot of other advantages besides brand. They have among other things:
  • Extensive distribution channels which are VERY expensive to replicate
  • Knowledge of the market and competitive environment as well as infrastructure to use this information
  • Economies of scale due to their large production volume permitting leverage with supppliers and/or the ability to sell at a lower cost (think Walmart) or for higher margins (think Coke or Intel)
  • Relationships with government regulators the new guys lack
  • Existing revenues to support product development
  • Production/operations experience and debugged processes
  • Existing and sometimes captive supplier relationships
  • Extensive patent and other IP portfolios

And a lot more. It's very difficult to attack a market leader directly. They simply have too many advantages (in addition to brand) to have a realistic chance of success.

I've always thought Transmeta's strategy was a bit questionable because they are attacking Intel/AMD on their strength. Sure, Transmeta's processors don't use much power but so what? The processor wasn't the biggest power drain in most devices that would use it. (the display screens usually chew up the most power) And Intel quickly released low(er) power versions of their existing processors which at least narrowed the gap. Plus a processor by itself is useless; it needs a board to plug it into and that creates an installed base problem. Dell doesn't want Transmeta processors because it increases production complexity and adds cost.

Transmeta's real product advantage (IMO) lay in their instruction morphing technology, not low power. It creates another abstraction layer making it easier for board manufacturers to customize products for companies like HP or IBM. This would allow firms that use several different platforms to potentially reduce costs by producing one processor and then tweaking the instruction set. Faster time to market and reduced cost. There are performance issues of course but I think these could have been managed if they didn't focus so heavily on the low power market.

Re:This is what happens in today's "free market". (1)

adler187 (448837) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265214)

Actually Wendy's is number one in the fast food business, followed by McDonalds and then BK. I used to work for BK for about 3 years and would always read the monthly newsletter. Its been a while since I worked there, so this information could be dated. As far as pop (or soda if you prefer) is conserned, you forgot about Dr.Pepper/7Up. Until I worked at BK I thought they were owned by Pepsi, but they are their own company. Either way though, your point about 2-3 dominant players is correct.

Why I am not interested in buying. (3, Interesting)

cheezemonkhai (638797) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264672)

When I was researching building myself a little mini-itx box for playing dvd's and doing PVR I considered transmeta and via CPUs and boards.

The via sort of has reasonable support in linux, however the transmeta seems not to be very open about giving drivers etc away.

In the end I gave up and just used a long lead from the already present old server (Was doing firewall 7 routing etc) to the TV.

The idea of a cool & quiet little PC to do that was great, but unless you get prices less than an pc with a quieting kit and good support under linux (and windows) then it's not going to work.

To beat the incumbant you have to out perform and ouotprice it. Transmeta's problem is that AMD was already giving this a good go and people just don't want to use the unproven.

recovery strategy (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264676)

sure they lose a little on every sale, but they ought to be able to make up for it in volume.

Re:recovery strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264762)

Darl McBride has a business plan to cover that.

Re:recovery strategy (2, Insightful)

crow (16139) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264774)

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.

Fun if you can get the funding (2, Insightful)

sphealey (2855) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

sPh

Re:Fun if you can get the funding (1)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264826)

If you look back, what, 15 years and just say, "Taking on Intel is always an unlikely path to success" people would have believed you. AMD is proof-positive that it is possible to break into a "saturated" market with the right combination of engineering, marketing, and manufacturing.

Re:Fun if you can get the funding (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264913)

I don't disagree in general. Correct me if I am wrong though but AMD was one of the companies that was licensed by Intel to manufacture 8086s in the era of "second sourcing". They added this knowledge to their existing fab business, so they didn't come to the CPU market cold.

sPh

Re:Fun if you can get the funding (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264919)

"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!"
My guess would be.... IBM.
If you look at the new Power 5 and Cell chip they could be the next big thing. At least microsoft seems to think so since they are going for a PowerPC for the next X-Box.
I often wonder how the world might have been different if IBM had decided to really go for the PC market back when it made the first IBM PC. What if instead of throwing together all the stuff they could get for cheap they had instead developed the OS and CPU themselvs?
Would our PCs today be using the S390 isa?

Is it just me, or- (0)

IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264705)

is no one surprised, because in my experience their CPUs, well...suck

TM always avoided benchmarks (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:TM always avoided benchmarks (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265020)

TM always avoided industry standard benchmarks. That is always a bad sign.

If they don't like benchmarks, they should instead pull an MS: bribe the benchmark companies. Learn from the "best".

Well (4, Funny)

cca93014 (466820) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264710)

Quarterly losses? Whew! At least they arent sufferent from monthly losses. Or even weekly ones.

The Moral Is... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264714)

Don't f with Intel!

Outsource Fabrication? (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264715)

Are there not companies which specialize in manufacturing the chip designs of other client companies? Why couldn't Transmeta design their chips, license their intellectual property, and then have their chips manufactured by one of these fabrication companies. I am no expert on the microprocessor industry, but I have heard it said that a large percentage of operating costs go towards running those expensive fabrication plants.

Re:Outsource Fabrication? (1)

crow (16139) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264745)

I thought they did that from the start.

The problem is that they don't have the sales volume to amortize the development costs such that they can make a profit.

Of course, you hear about yield problems, but I'm not sure that's really anything that Transmeta has any control over.

Re:Outsource Fabrication? (3, Informative)

bitmason (191759) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264764)

The article summary is misleading. Transmeta already outsources manufacturing. I believe they've used both IBM and TSMC in the past--not sure who they're using at the moment. The article says that Transmeta is considering getting out of the chip design business and just license their IP. This is presumably patents, etc. around code morphing and other techniques that they've developed. It would presumably also represent a significant scaling back of the company.

Re:Outsource Fabrication? (1)

stiggle (649614) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264892)

Why outsource the manufacturing, why not take the same route as ARM.

They just design the CPU core and then licence it to anyone and everyone. Intel licenses ARM cores (XScale is 'compatible with ARM 5TE'), you've probably got an ARM based processor in your phone and Palm Pilot these days too....

It means that ARM can concentrate on what they do best - design decent low power CPU cores, and leave it to everyone else to actually make them and put them in things.

So Long, Transmeta. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264721)

Tis' a shame that Transmeta had to get out of the chip making business. However, it appears that their presence was not in vain.

From the article: The company emerged in 2000 with a promise to bring energy-efficient processors to notebooks. The company's low-energy push spurred Intel to cut the energy consumption in its own chips.The company emerged in 2000 with a promise to bring energy-efficient processors to notebooks.

At least they had a long-lasting impact on Chipzilla. I never had to buy any Transmeta-powered products, but I know others who did. One tongue-in-cheek reason was to "root for the underdog."

The only hope now is that they don't get vilified for focusing more on the revenue-generating but much maligned IP territory.

Power Requirements (2, Insightful)

rpozz (249652) | more than 9 years ago | (#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:Power Requirements (2, Insightful)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 9 years ago | (#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.

Re:Power Requirements (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11265059)

Is there some corner of the embedded market that doesn't care about latency? It's not any fun if your processor suddenly stops running your program and spends the next 10000 cycles compiling the next piece of code to the native format... I suspect this is why Transmeta didn't even try to go embedded.

Define "embedded market"... (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264982)

If you're talking consumer electronics devices that don't have to deal with any x86 software, then yeah, ARM's the one that dominated that market. The overall situation, however, is a different story. You're going to find that people that can afford to roll their own SOC based solutions will tend to pick a favorite, being something like an even mix of Dragonball, MIPS, and ARM based designs. If the players in question (which is the bulk of the embedded systems industry) are forced to use off the shelf components, they will pick x86 implicitly as all the MIPS and ARM solutions that are off-the-shelf are anywhere from 4-10 times more expensive.

Who will serve the markets that transmeta does? (3, Interesting)

Will Fisher (731585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264766)

Its a shame. I (heart) my transmeta based notebook [pcplus.co.uk] , (i got it for £500 3 months ago) its so tiny. I may not be able to play back video very well, but its under a kilogram and incredibly small. Perfect for webbrowsing and email on the move :(

Who will make processors for these kind of notebooks now?

You've been had (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264990)

You poor fool. That's not a notebook, that's a Tungsten with a Sharp sticker placed over the Palm logo.

Re:Who will serve the markets that transmeta does? (1)

limabone (174795) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265117)

http://www.sonystyle.com/intershoproot/eCS/Store/e n/lc/vaio//pdfs/Sony_VAIO-X505.pdf

1.8 kilos, amazingly thin, and a bucketload of features. Pretty expensive at the moment but it will get cheaper!

pathetic.. (3, Interesting)

torpor (458) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264781)

.. they haven't even tried.

it seems to me that transmeta should get -serious- about what the real issue with sillicon-business is: getting the product *used*.

as a more-than-casual observer of the sillicon markets, but being consequently, admittedly, ignorant of transmeta's "consumer" stance, i can't help but feel that transmeta are still in the 'precocious spoiled brat', rather than 'serious competitive contender against golliath', stage of 'tech biz' development ..

obviously, what they needed to do was conqure small-run manufacturing, and get the 'last-gap' hardware issues solved, while fostering their development cults. they didn't do this, instead just forever 'being defeated in the Desktop war'.

we -need- more bold new CPU and silicon vendors, people. if only a handful of people in the world can print and manufacture silicon, that's sad..

if, after their cut-up, whatevers left of Transmetas' engineering team get enough of a reboot, maybe we'll see them focusing on chips for devices, rather than chips for general-purpose computing (in weird ways).

as a developer, if i could have 10,000 transmeta cpu's, all in good low-power/high-performance ratio, on 10,000 motherboards, with 10,000 power-supplies and invoices for 10,000 cases/assembly, i would write some bad-ass software, which would put those 10k cpu's to *use*. (i like to think i do this for a living..)

but i never got the sense that transmeta gave a rats about *actual* devices, preferring to over-general-purpose-ize their engineering efforts, so that everything was *expensive*.

(10k worth of 8051's, some batteries and leds==90's::10k ARM/PPC/TM-core ass'lies, some batteries, LCD, and a radio==2000's)

in sum: transmeta didn't think small enough.

Intel Centrino was reason Transmeta failed. (2, Insightful)

MtViewGuy (197597) | more than 9 years ago | (#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?

How many times will the train crush you. (2, Interesting)

gelfling (6534) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264823)

Transmeta came to the fore with a promise that sounded almost as dramatic as the Scientific Revolution. The problem with that is, you have to be right.

Too bad really, because it's just one more indicator that the era of significant investment in new technology is looping ever shorter. The day when a company would invest in Xerox machine development for 20 years like Halloid did is I think, gone. Now you have to show a tiny incremental improvement right away and the hell with quantum leaps.

And large oligopolies are in the best position to do that. Show minimal improvement with maximal crash and burn to upstarts. Didn't the Transmeta guys learn anything from Bill Gates??

Didn't the TM guys learn anything from Bill Gates? (1)

Chordonblue (585047) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264978)

Hmmm.. Considering one of their highest profile employees was Linus Torvalds...

I'd hazard a guess that the answer here would be:

NO.

The Crusoe Chip (5, Informative)

elecngnr (843285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264830)

I remember back a few years when their Crusoe chips were touted as the next great development in chips. IEEE Spectrum had a big article that really pumped them up. Here is the abstract from that:

Abstract:

It took Transmeta engineers $100 million, five years of secret toil, and a little magic to create fast low-power chips that turn into x86s in a microsecond. Transmeta Corporation's Crusoe chips look nothing like Intel's Pentium processors. They do not even have a logic gate in common. They are smaller, consume between one-third and one-thirtieth the power (depending on the application), and implement none of the same instructions in hardware. However the Crusoe microprocessors can run the same software that runs on IBM PC-compatible personal computers with Pentium chips-for instance, Microsoft Windows or versions of Unix, along with their software applications. The paper describes the development of the Crusoe chips

All that development and hype, yet now they are getting out of the market. Seems they should have been well positioned to dominate in the handheld and portable market. Bad business practices? The EE Times also has a good article on this. [eet.com]

Re:The Crusoe Chip (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265080)

You make it sound like the Crusoe is all hype, but it isn't like that. When it was released, it did fill a niche: a market for low-power, x86 compatible CPUs. Unfortunately, Intel jumped into that market soon after with Centrino and Pentium M. These are selling like hot cakes in Notebooks; these sales could all have gone to Transmeta.

Of course, with their opportunity snatched away in front of them, Transmeta lost both the initiative and likely some of its investors, and now they're probably falling behind the technology curve.

What I don't understand is why they didn't fully exploit all potential of their code morphing technology. Without code morphing, there's a very efficient CPU. With code morphing, there's a CPU that emulates any other CPU you like, and probably quite efficiently - after all, that's what the hardware is made for. Their CPUs should be extremely flexible, but all they have been willing to release so far is an x86 emulator...

Re:The Crusoe Chip (1)

elecngnr (843285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265191)

That was what I was alluding to. I remember reading the Spectrum article back in 2000. Knowing what I did about where mobile communications was going with 802.11 and such I thought, here is a company that is well-positioned. The low power consumption was a major advantage. When code-morphing was added to this platform, they really should have succeeded. But, yes, Intel was right there too and they have that name recognition that is important in consumer devices. I just wonder, with hindsight being 20/20, if they could not have done something better to get that chip into more devices. Thanks for the feedback

Like no one could've seen this one coming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264869)

Any person with a decent sense of business could've seen that their biz plan was never gonna work. But it's funny how almost everyone on /. who first hailed transmeta as the Intel-killer is now mocking it ferociously.

"What do ya wanna do now?" (1)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264893)

Suit: "Hey, why are you guys just sitting around? Don't you have processors to build?"

Lazy yokel 1: "Nope. They told us we don't have to do that any more. They said we have IP now."

Lazy yokel 2: "Yeah. IP."

Suit: "We sell processors! What the hell are we going to do if we don't make processors!?!"

(pause)

Lazy yokel 1: "Wanna sue someone?"

Re:"What do ya wanna do now?" (1)

LaCosaNostradamus (630659) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265137)

The flaw in your little drama play is that once the suit concludes they are an IP company, all the build-it yokels will be fired. The suit will likely instead have a little drama play about yelling at the janitor for not keeping the bathroom clean ... after all, an IP company only has an office.

Why Transmeta Failed (1)

TampaDeveloper (834876) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264904)

Cyrix didn't have a problem selling processors as the minority player. Why? Because they had a competitive product. Transmeta failed for one reason and one reason alone: Their processors could not come close to matching the performance Intel and AMDs processors.

Sounds like (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264938)

In related news, KFC mulls leaving the chicken business.

The real problem here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11264944)

is that Linus already used up his 3 wishes ...

All those Transmeta Crusoe chips! (2, Funny)

BillsPetMonkey (654200) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264947)

will be stranded ...

A damned shame... (0)

kakos (610660) | more than 9 years ago | (#11264989)

I'm always a big supporter of innovation and the Transmeta processor was certainly incredibly innovative. It's a true shame that the processor market is dominated by a company that hasn't had an innovation in over twenty years (Intel) and a company that only makes very small innovations (AMD).

Transmeta's basic problem - (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265056)

"Code morphing", which is a form of emulation, was interesting, but not all that promising as a way to emulate one well-understood CPU architecture. AMD does some code modification when instructions are loaded into the instruction cache; they expand all the instructions up to a fixed size, like a RISC machine.

"Code morphing" would have been more useful if the instruction set to be emulated was less well matched to a hardware implementation. The VAX instruction set comes to mind. That instruction set was hard to make run fast. Individual instructions had too many sequential steps. DEC struggled with that for years. But few need a fast VAX any more.

The only reason that Transmeta had any success at all was that they built a chip with good on-chip subsystem-level power management. That's something which Intel and AMD had previously not considered too important, having focused on desktops first and laptops second. But it's not hard to do, and Intel then started doing it.

dfd df (1)

yahyamf (751776) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265071)

http://example.com/ [example.com] dfs d

Sorry, but: (0, Flamebait)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265075)

Ha ha ha!!! I laugh at all of you who thought this would dominate ANY market segment, and who saw this as anything more than an academic study.

It was a dumb idea to begin with, but was so cool and flashy, and had LINUS written in big letters on everything that it was more a fan item than a viable product.

How could a dynamic architecture possibly complete with a tuned architecture? Everyone knows this: tuned assembly is always faster, better, cheaper, than an all-in-one programming language. The software analogy holds to hardware.

This was an academic exercise, a graduate student thesis with a lot of investing capital and some big industry names.

I'm happy it was done and it was an exciting adventure, but never for an instant did I think it would succeed, and it has NOTHING to do with monopolostic theories. Those of you claiming the MAN held them down should look closesly: THE ENTIRE SEMICONDUCTOR industry has focused its guns on low power, and with 1000x the engineering brains, you bet yer ass Transmeta would eventually be outgunned. This has nothing to do with an unfair free market as some of you have whined.

Java processor? (4, Insightful)

Quixote (154172) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265144)

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).

hoo hoo (1)

fudboy (199618) | more than 9 years ago | (#11265147)

deja vu.

don't count your monkeys before they crap.

I've been following transmeta fairly close all this time, keeping up on the news clippings and press releases, anyway, and it seems to me that we went through this last year, and the year before was a buyout rumor.

My prediction: this year sees them consolidating the patent portfolio through acquisition, despite the money pit issues, in specific particular, they will gobble up rambus, inc before august '05. This is despite the rambus legal liabilities and with the intention of going MGLM (mean, green litigating machine).

The exit from manufacturing is a non-issue, really. the thing to watch is the IP warfare that's coming. also, the eventual sellout is nigh. expect AMD, samsung and hyundai to muscle in around early '06, if'n this press release isn't just grooming for the auction block now.

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