Crusoe Stranded on Processor Island

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2002-07-29 Print this article Print

I'd like to think that the economic news is unrelated to the quality of the Crusoe.

It figures. just two weeks after I wrote about the benefits of Transmetas Crusoe architecture, the company announced terrible earnings and a plan to slash its work force by 40 percent.

Tumbling earnings and work force slashing are par for the course for chip companies in these times, so Id like to think that the economic news is unrelated to the quality and marketability of the Crusoe. Unfortunately, more than 40 percent of the people responding to my column said I was off base.

In sum, I wrote that its crazy not to want the extended battery life inherent in Crusoe if the processor speeds were adequate.

Most respondents said that AC outlets were ubiquitous and that there is rarely a need for greater battery performance. For example, Jon Bird, a communications analyst with the IRS, said, "It may be possible that battery life is really a bogus issue. I suspect that most people use their laptops as portable desktops, moving it and the AC adapter from location to location."

Likewise, Rob Yost, of Rent Right, said, "It seems to me that the only people who value battery life are reporters. No one I know uses their notebook unplugged."

Clearly, Intel, with its Mobile Pentium 4 and Pentium III chip sets, is appealing to these people. The P4 is faster than the Crusoe in the arbitrary scale of megahertz and in raw performance. This is essentially true, even if Intels SpeedStep technology fluctuates the processor speed to even its slowest point.

I was right to talk about battery life, but I was off because I focused on notebook technology. Transmeta enables designers to shrink notebook sizes and add battery life, differences that affect journalists and CEOs but not the majority of users. Transmetas chips, however, also work in server environments and ultrapersonal computers, areas for which the chip architecture may be better suited.

Transmeta erred in coming across as a dot-com-like business in hyperdrive that couldnt get its products out the door. That attitude doesnt play when Intel is your main competitor.

Will Transmeta become fodder for some other chip company? Write to me at

As the director of eWEEK Labs, John manages a staff that tests and analyzes a wide range of corporate technology products. He has been instrumental in expanding eWEEK Labs' analyses into actual user environments, and has continually engineered the Labs for accurate portrayal of true enterprise infrastructures. John also writes eWEEK's 'Wide Angle' column, which challenges readers interested in enterprise products and strategies to reconsider old assumptions and think about existing IT problems in new ways. Prior to his tenure at eWEEK, which started in 1994, Taschek headed up the performance testing lab at PC/Computing magazine (now called Smart Business). Taschek got his start in IT in Washington D.C., holding various technical positions at the National Alliance of Business and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. There, he and his colleagues assisted the government office with integrating the Windows desktop operating system with HUD's legacy mainframe and mid-range servers.

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