Updated An extremely low-key triple alliance of Microsoft, Transmeta and AMD has been working quietly to ensure Microsoft software will support AMD's 64-bit Sledgehammer chip from the word go. This despite public claims by Microsoft execs that Sledgehammer will be playing decidedly second fiddle to Intel's Itanium.
The deal probably originates in AMD's cosying up to Transmeta earlier this year on the subject of power management, but specifically got going, we're told, because the simulator AMD shipped Microsoft was a dud. The fact that Microsoft was shipped a simulator at all makes it clear the company intended to support AMD, but Microsoft's refusal to work with the cripplingly slow code it got from AMD was the catalyst.
So what does AMD do? Call for super-morpher. According to our sources, Transmeta modified the software to morph standard x86 to VLIW, along with all the Sledgehammer extensions and the differences from Pentium 3. Despite the presence of the Demon Torvalds on the Transmeta roster, you can see how this kind of approach might entrance Microsoft's high command.
Microsoft is getting Transmeta-based development platforms that behave like Sledgehammer ones, and as Sledgehammer ones don't exist yet, they'll be a lot faster than the alternative.
Just getting a foot into the door in Redmond would be a pretty good reward for Transmeta, but we understand that Microsoft is also pretty clear that it will use Transmeta in its Tablet computers. These are currently just demo prototypes, with no committment to actual production, but you can maybe see an Xbox parallel here. A year ago Microsoft (it later claimed) showed the Xbox design to the OEMs, but the OEMs weren't interested, so Microsoft said it would do it without them. This could happen again, if Microhard turns out to be an attractive option for the company.
Meanwhile, claims that Compaq had cancelled its Transmeta notebooks entirely bounced off the Transmeta IPO, which earlier today hit $42, twice the increased debut price of $21 and easily enough to make the Klondike contingent come over all misty-eyed. For the record, we're told that Compaq's commercial division has received a number of incentives from a very large chip company to keep clear of Transmeta, but that Compaq Consumer has declined similar bungs, and will go ahead as planned in December. We'll see. ®