Microsoft Taps Transmeta For ‘Mira’

Chipmaker Transmeta Tuesday said Microsoft has handpicked it as a reference design partner to help develop the next generation of its Smart Displays.

Code named “Mira,” the wireless, touch screen monitor can access a main PC running Microsoft Windows XP from up to approximately 100 feet away in a home or office via an 802.11b wireless connection. The displays are expected to hit the market in February 2004.

The partnership is quite the coup for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Transmeta. When the Mira form factor was announced in January 2002, Microsoft said it tested its Beta 1 release with help from Intel, National Semiconductor, ViewSonic, and Wyse Technology.

Transmeta says the Mira should run on either 800MHz or 1GHz TM5800 Crusoe chips. The tried and true processors are already found in several “thin and light” notebooks and in Tablet PCs made by Hewlett-Packard and elsewhere.

If it is successful in the Smart Display category, Transmeta could unseat Intel and AMD as the vendors’ top choice, say analysts.

“Bringing higher performance processors into Smart Displays, as with PCs, is an important step in driving this market forward,” IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell said.

Microsoft says it designated Transmeta a Smart Displays reference platform partner after its original equipment manufacturer customers expressed interest in developing for the Transmeta processor architecture. Transmeta was contacted and the two collaborated on testing of Transmeta’s processors for use in Smart Displays.

The two companies have collaborated on several projects in recent years. In August 2002, Microsoft certified Transmeta’s processors for the Windows CE .NET operating system, enabling new opportunities for Transmeta in mobile and embedded markets. The companies also collaborated on the development of Microsoft’s Tablet PC platform

Transmeta said its low-power processors are a good fit for Smart Displays even if they need to run DVD quality multimedia playback. The company said its chips are already hardwired to run MPEG-2/4 and Windows Media Video 8/9 decode and don’t require as much space as the competition or the noisy fans to cool them.

“Our LongRun power management technology is instrumental in providing very high performance on-demand,” said Arthur L. Swift, Transmeta’s senior vice president of marketing, “while efficiently managing processor power to maximize battery life for wireless devices like Smart Displays.”

The chipmaker is finalizing the release structure of its TM8000 processor (also known as “Astro”), which is due sometime after July 1.

The chip is expected to be used in a gamut of devices ranging from ultra-light notebooks to high-density blade servers.