Microsoft taps Transmeta for secret project

Mysterious project likely involves something other than Origami

Just weeks after Microsoft Corp. pulled back the curtains on its Origami project, chip design company Transmeta Corp. has let slip a few more details about another of the software giant's secretive development projects.

Transmeta signed a series of agreements with Microsoft last May under which about 30 Transmeta engineers would provide development services to help with "a proprietary Microsoft project," Transmeta said in its annual report filed with U.S. regulators last week.

The work from those agreements has been "substantially completed" and Transmeta was, at the time of its filing, in the process of negotiating additional services for 2006, although probably not on the same scale as the previous work, it said.

The work is not related to ultramobile PCs, the portable wireless computers unveiled earlier this month as part of Microsoft's Origami project, according to a report in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper.

Transmeta first disclosed the work with Microsoft last year. The initial reports about Origami led to speculation that Transmeta could be involved in that project, but that doesn't appear to be the case.

One of the devices, from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., uses a 900-MHz Intel Celeron M processor. Another, from PaceBlade Japan Inc. (PBJ), uses Via Technologies Inc.'s C7-M ULV processor.

Transmeta's work with Microsoft involves a variation of its low-power Efficeon microprocessor, Transmeta CEO Arthur Swift told analysts last month, according to the Post-Intelligencer report.

Microsoft isn't ready to discuss the new project, the paper said. Microsoft representatives in Europe couldn't comment early Monday, and Transmeta, in Santa Clara, Calif., could not immediately be reached.

Transmeta's main business is licensing chip technologies to hardware makers, including its LongRun technology for reducing power consumption in microprocessors. That technology is especially suited to portable devices where long battery life is important.

Microsoft doesn't generally build hardware products -- its Xbox360 game console is made by contract manufacturers -- but it often develops hardware "reference designs" for products that it wants other companies to build.

The engineering work with Microsoft was one of two significant services deals that Transmeta signed last year. The other, which it said was unrelated, was with Sony Corp.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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