Transmeta sells Crusoe chip line to Hong Kong company

Perhaps Culturecom can make a profit from innovative chips

Transmeta has agreed to sell its Crusoe line of microprocessors to Hong Kong's Culturecom Technology for US$15 million (NZ$21.5 million) in cash, the struggling US chip company said on Tuesday.

Culturecom will also license Transmeta's Efficeon processor technology to make and sell Efficeon-based chips in China. In addition to the cash payment, Culturecom will pay royalties to Transmeta on sales by the Hong Kong company of both Crusoe and Efficeon products, Transmeta says.

Transmeta expects the deal to close by December, subject to Culturecom's receiving a technology export license from the US Department of Commerce and other conditions, Transmeta says. Culturecom is a subsidiary of Hong-Kong-based Culturecom Holdings, which publishes comics and sells Chinese-language application software.

The Hong Kong company will not get a licence for Transmeta's newer, 90-nanometer technology for making Efficeon chips, but rather its older, 130nm process. The figure refers to the average feature size on a chip built using that process. One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.

Transmeta has already stopped production of its original Crusoe processor as well as the 130nm version of the Efficeon processor.

The move follows the news from Transmeta earlier this year that it would phase out production of all but a few of its low-power processors and to focus its business on intellectual property licensing deals. They have typically involved up-front payments followed by royalties.

Founded in 1995, Transmeta tried unsuccessfully to break into the Intel-dominated market for notebook PCs by offering processors such as Crusoe that used software tricks to consume less power. The company has racked up more than US$650 million in losses over the last five years as major PC makers such as Dell declined to use Transmeta's chips.

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