Gateway & AOL Follow Crusoe’s Footprints

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Gateway & AOL Follow Crusoe's Footprints
C. McNulty - June 13, 2000

Event Summary

SAN DIEGO and SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 30 -- Gateway has selected the Transmeta Crusoe smart processor to power the first of its new line of network-ready Internet Appliances (IAs) that it is developing with America Online, Inc. The Crusoe processor is ideally suited to IAs and handheld devices because it offers sharply extended battery life, smaller size and lower operating temperatures than traditional processors. The company also has selected Transmeta's Mobile Linux as the operating system for these products.

Gateway, which also made a strategic investment in Transmeta in April 2000, selected the Transmeta Crusoe processor for inclusion in the family of IAs it plans to launch with AOL based on several criteria: high performance; lower temperature operation, which permits smaller packaging; and its low-power requirements, which dramatically increases battery life.

Market Impact

As we previously reported, the Gateway AOL appliances will use Gecko technology from Netscape 6 running on Linux. [See TEC article It's a Portal AND It's a Gateway] Gateway & AOL are planning three different "iPliances":

  • Countertop appliance, using a flat panel touchscreen, to ship by year-end 2000

  • Wireless webpad, connecting to a base station elsewhere in home or office, shipping in early 2001

  • Desktop appliance, in a traditional PC form factor, on sale by the end of the year

Responding to TEC inquiries, Gateway officials stated that all three iPliances will run Transmeta Mobile Linux, but only the countertop and webpad will use the Crusoe processor. Although Gateway has yet to announce the processor, we forecast a 60% likelihood that it will be an AMD unit.

User Recommendations

Car companies love displaying their concept cars at their annual trade shows. Few of them ever see street miles. Some lack optional features like engines. Only occasionally, a Ford Taurus or Dodge Viper becomes more than a "proof of concept". The iPliances are interesting, and it's great that Gateway's picked out the engine. But as with appliance PCs, this sub market is unproven.

Let's read the tea leaves. Gateway is expecting to have the Crusoe chip in the first of its new appliances. Since the desktop iPliance won't use Crusoe, the countertop will ship first. And Gateway is saying only that the desktop will be "on sale" by year-end.

If Gateway can stick to this schedule, hats off to them. However, the desktop iPliance should be easier to get out the door, since it has fewer novel technologies. S3 was expected to have its Linux-based Crusoe Webpad out by midyear, but we have yet to see a real announcement from them. Given holiday market realities, we expect to see an AMD-based desktop appliance from Gateway AOL in time for the holidays, before we see a countertop.

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