IBM backs away from Crusoe

SV News Service

Less than two days after reports leaked that it has canceled a deal with a Taiwan-based contract manufacturer, IBM conceded on Thursday that it has canceled plans to use the Crusoe processor from Transmeta chip in a new laptop computer. 

Reportedly, IBM was unable to significantly boost battery life by using the Crusoe chip. “We have decided not to introduce a Transmeta-based system this year in our Thinkpad 240 model, but we are continuing to work with Transmeta and other chip manufacturers on other products,” said an IBM spokesman.

IBM’s goal was to develop a ThinkPad that could offer eight hours of battery life. Crusoe-based notebook systems, such as one introduced recently by Sony feature about 5.5 hours of use. Most standard laptops will run for 2.5 to four hours on a battery charge.

“They didn’t find enough of a difference in terms of battery life performance between the Transmeta technology and Intel’s to justify the extra cost and risk,” said Rob Enderle, Analyst, Giga Information Group. He said that he was told about the problem by IBM executives.

The IBM announcement came two days after Taiwan’s Quanta Computer said that IBM has canceled a Crusoe laptop manufacturing contract. The move also comes just one week before Transmeta’s planned initial public stock offering. The company said that the IBM decision will not affect those plans, although investor enthusiasm is likely to be dampened somewhat.

Ironically, the Crusoe processors are manufactured by IBM, using the company’ advanced copper interconnect technology. Apparently a 5.5 hour battery life was not enough to convince IBM to take a chance on the Crusoe. Besides, having to deal with completely different motherboards and system designs, a move away from competing Intel processors would also cut IBM off from lucrative co-marketing subsidies provided by Intel in return for the use of its chips. 

“It is very difficult to step away from that money and use a different chip vendor unless there’s a significant difference between the two technologies, and there just wasn’t in this case,” Enderle said.

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