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AMD Hooks Up with Transmeta - For Now

Written By: R. Krause
Published On: January 25 2001

AMD Hooks Up with Transmeta - For Now
R. Krause - January 25, 2001

Event Summary

1/3/2001 [Source: CNET]

Computer chip manufacturer Advanced Micro Devices. Inc., (AMD), in an attempt to reduce software development time for its future 64-bit CPU, called "Sledgehammer", is rumored to be sending systems to software developers. What is different about these systems is that they will use the "Crusoe" processor and special "code morphing" software produced by Transmeta, a rival to both AMD and Intel Corporation.

Market Impact

This may help AMD reduce the gap between release of the Sledgehammer processor and release of compatible third-party software. AMD apparently believes that Transmeta's software can simulate the behavior of Sledgehammer more effectively than AMD's own simulation software. Typically, there can be a six-to-12-month development cycle for software designed to run on a new processor. AMD hopes it can reduce this "lag" - normally there is a time gap between the hardware and software releases. There has even been speculation that applications may be available by the time Sledgehammer starts shipping, currently slated for the first half of 2002. Although most of the corporate-market-focused industry is gearing up for Intel's Itanium processor, this development may encourage vendors to commit resources to Sledgehammer.

One area of uncertainty is Windows. Microsoft is still not officially committed to writing any software for this product. Until MS does that, Sledgehammer will be viewed as a Linux-only processor - not good, if you want to capture the corporate market. (Before Linux-philes complain: we have no problem vis-a-vis Linux, but it's currently only a serious competitor in the server market. Since AMD has only a modest - at best - server presence in the corporate market, this is problematic. Although Sledgehammer is geared toward servers, AMD needs to be able to provide servers in the four-CPU market, something they can't do at present.) We expect AMD's business folks will do whatever it takes to get MS on board.

User Recommendations

Users who believe "Intel first, last, and always" will have no interest in this announcement.

Users willing to consider an AMD 64-bit processor - especially if Itanium slips much more - will want to keep in touch with AMD's progress in this arena. A 64-bit processor which can run legacy 32-bit applications provides some compelling economies for companies on a tight upgrade budget.

The caveat, as mentioned before, is that Microsoft may not "get on board" until very late. Although it is probably in MS's best interests to be compatible, they may decide it is better to stick with Intel. This would not be a killing blow, but it would certainly make it that much more difficult for AMD to gain respectable market share. Although Linux has grabbed a sizeable chunk of server market shipments in the past two years, it is not clear that running Linux-only is a winning sell against Intel (which can run both Windows and Linux).

 
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