Sony Laptops To Have Crusoe Chip

Friday, September 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A power-saving computer chip manufactured by Transmeta Corp. that promises to double the life of batteries hits the consumer market next month inside Sony's new ultra-slim laptop.

Sony Corp.'s latest models of the VAIO computer PictureBook, powered by Transmeta's much-hyped Crusoe microprocessor, are set to land on store shelves in mid-to-late October.

``It's tailored toward the traveling business professional,'' Mark Hanson, vice president and general manager of Sony's PC product line, said of the Crusoe-backed PictureBook. ``Now they can fly coast-to-coast without having to look for another battery.''

The postage stamp-sized Crusoe chip was unveiled in January after five years of highly secretive research and development at the Santa Clara, Calif.-based upstart Transmeta. Intel Corp., the world's leading chipmaker, has also since released similar power-saving microprocessors using the company's SpeedStep technology.

But the Crusoe chip — named after the literary character, Robinson Crusoe, to connote images of travel and adventure — proved to be the right fit for the Sony PictureBook, Hanson said.

The PictureBook is an increasingly popular product — a microcomputer and digital video camera all in one. Priced at $2,299, it weighs 2.2 pounds and is one-inch thick. The latest model has improved digital quality and 128 megabytes of memory, double the amount of previous models.

The Crusoe chip, Hanson said, ``allowed us to maintain our size and weight, and at the same time, we're able to get better battery life.''

He said product tests indicated that the new Crusoe chip afforded PictureBook users two times the stamina of previous models. The typical session span with the Crusoe chip could last up to 5.5 hours.

``We're totally excited to be the first ones out with the Crusoe chip,'' Hanson said.

Other mobile computer products carrying Crusoe chips are not far behind, further cutting into the dominance that chip giant Intel holds.

Hitachi Ltd. is slated to start selling Crusoe-powered notebook computers in November. Quanta, another leading maker of notebook computers, said it will ship Crusoe-powered products to IBM Corp. later this year.

Gateway Inc. and America Online Inc. have also said they plan to use Transmeta processors for their jointly developed ``Internet appliance'' products that will go on sale later this year.

With Transmeta's lineup of upcoming products, ``right now it does look like Transmeta has superior performance,'' said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Giga Information Group in Santa Clara.

``It's difficult for companies to use an alternative vendor, so when they do that, it shows the technology has a significant advantage,'' Enderle said.

Transmeta's deal with Sony is a ``critical win'' in the fast-growing market of ultra-slim lightweight mobile computers, Enderle added.

``Sony is a bellwether of this class, so capturing Sony was a significant milestone for Transmeta,'' he said.


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