Transmeta develops a PDA prototype with Crusoe chip

The Silicon Valley firm that designed Palm Inc.’s slender Palm V has developed a wireless Internet appliance based on Transmeta Corp.’s Crusoe microprocessor, Transmeta’s chief executive officer said earlier last month.

CEO David Ditzel showed slides of the prototype device, designed by Ideo Product Development Inc., during a dinner presentation sponsored by Microprocessor Report in Santa Clara, Calif. The “Web slate,” as he called it, is about the size of a paperback book, has a wireless Internet connection and, like the Palm, uses handwriting recognition to input data.

The device also features a high-resolution, eight-inch screen for viewing Web pages and DVD movies, a small camera for on-the-road videoconferencing, a global positioning system for navigation, and embedded speakers for playing digital music files, according to information on Ideo’s Web site.

The Web slate was designed to be more portable than a laptop and offers a larger viewing screen than a personal digital assistant (PDA), Ideo said.

Transmeta commissioned the design to show off the versatility of its new chip. That means Ideo probably won’t offer the Web slate commercially, but other manufacturers may sell something similar.

Internet appliances based on Transmeta’s low-power chip could go on sale shortly before midyear, Ditzel said in a brief interview.

In January Transmeta unveiled its first two Crusoe processors. The chips use a technology called “code morphing,” which allows them to run the same x86-type instructions as Intel Corp. processors, but, according to Transmeta, to do it using far less power, which leads to much longer battery life.

Analysts said code morphing isn’t quite as revolutionary as Transmeta would have people believe – other companies have developed similar emulation techniques in the past using slightly different approaches. The difference is that Transmeta appears to have been more successful than others, said Keith Diefendorff, senior analyst with MicroDesign Resources, which publishes Microprocessor Report.

Transmeta, in Santa Clara, California, can be reached at (408) 919-3000, or on the Web at