Hewlett-Packard Co. on Monday will announce plans to use Transmeta Corp.s 1 GHz Crusoe TM5800 processors to power the forthcoming Compaq Evo Tablet PC, according to sources close to the company. HP decided to go with the Transmeta chip because it promises better battery life than competitors, the sources said.
Transmeta has had its chips featured in several ultralight notebook designs by Japanese manufacturers, including Sony Corp., Fujitsu Ltd., Hitachi and NEC Corp., but has had less luck in the U.S. market. IBM had plans to use Transmeta chips in some of its notebooks, but canceled those plans in October 2000. Transmeta processors are significantly less expensive than those of its competitors. But U.S. computer makers have generally stuck with leaders such as Intel Corp., which keeps its customers by promising upgrades and extensions and peripherals that will be compatible with its processors.
For that reason, some analysts have doubts about Hewlett-Packards decision, saying that enterprises are more likely to trust a company like Intel, which makes myriad components that are more likely to work with each other than components from different companies.
"They [Transmeta] prize battery life over compatibility, which I think is a mistake, " said Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing and storage at the Gartner Group in San Jose, Calif. "Enterprises will be concerned about the viability of the company…and I bet there will be incompatibilities. Transmeta cant support Intels extensions."
Two years ago, Transmeta got the industrys attention when it introduced its low-voltage, cooler running chips for the handheld digital market. But the company took so long bringing the products to market last year that industry leaders Intel and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. caught up and released low-power processors of their own.
The 5800 chip, for example, was originally due in the summer of 2001, but it didnt start shipping until February 2002.
HP officials declined to comment on its plans to support Transmeta. However, Compaq Computer Corp. (which merged with HP this month) announced a prototype of the Tablet PC last November. The device is basically a PC that allows users to write directly on the screen with a stylus. It is about the size of a pad of paper.
HP is one of several companies that plan to announce a Tablet PC later this year, when Microsoft Corp. announces the Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.