Amiga goes for Transmeta

Collas tight-lipped about 'wonder CPU', so here's what we know

Amiga president Jim Collas this weekend effectively revealed the Transmeta CPU will power the company's upcoming (and rather ugly, it has to be said) next-generation hardware products. On video via satellite link at the World of Amiga (WOA) show, held in Kensington, London, Collas simply unveiled which chip the new machines will be based upon. When it came to more interesting details -- like who will actually make the chip or what it can do -- Collas wasn't even remotely forthcoming. The WOA announcement should end the long-running speculation on what chip Amiga has selected. Most recently, MIPS' CPU emerged as the front-runner (not for the first time, either), and other possibilities have included Motorola's PowerPC, primarily because the original Amiga was based on Motorola's old 680x0 family. Collas always said the chip would not be an x86 processor, but one of the key features of the Transmeta chip is its support for the x86 instruction set. Transmeta itself has always kept a very tight lid on its work, which is probably why Collas couldn't say anything more at WOA and the company hasn't even press-released details of his speech. The Register has been tracking Transmeta developments for some time now. It is believed the chip, which is due to ship in Q4 with clock speeds of 400MHz. Essentially, it appears to be a kind of Swiss Army Knife CPU, capable of being easily upgraded to support multiple instruction sets. It will be fabbed by IBM Microelectronics. The IBM connection is particularly intriguing since many of Transmeta's designers hailed from IBM's PowerPC development team, and worked on a PowerPC chip, the 615, which had a bolt-on x86 compatibility module. Equally interesting for Amiga is the involvement of Linux creator Linus Torvalds in the Transmeta design. Earlier this month, Amiga dropped its planned support for the QNX Neutrino OS in favour of... er... Linux. Indeed, that was one of the key factors that suggested Amiga might be considering the Transmeta chip. The chip has also been designed to power Java-based machines, and again there's a strong connection here with Amiga's interest in Java technology as the programming language for the Amiga Operating Environment's APIs and its role in the AmigaObjects object technology. ®

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