Transmeta transmogrified by Linux founder
September 28, 1998
More details have emerged about a switch in direction Transmeta made when it
hired Linux inventor Linus Torvalds earlier this year.
Reliable sources said that the company has re-engineered itself and is now preparing a Risc processor which will be optimised for Windows NT 5.0, and which will effectively abandon legacy support for Dos and 16 bit Windows.
According to the source, the arrival of Torvalds heralded a sea-change at the secretive firm, which is run by the ex-head of SunSPARC labs, David Dinzel.
"Linus has taken a different look at it [the company] and has asked what x.86 actually means," the source said. "Effectively, it meant DOS and Windows 3.11 compatibility."
This is the standard route the cloners have followed, for good reason - as the bulk of PCs today (even Windows 98 ones) still run DOS-based operating systems, then compatibility remains important for current platforms.
But Torvalds seems now to be looking to a future where this isn't an issue. According to the source, Torvalds has come to the conclusion that the designers of Risc processors were a little too early to market with their offerings, but that has now changed.
"Compatibility now means it will run NT 5.0 and it is compatibility with NT 5.0 that is important."
If this is indeed what Torvalds is planning, it's an intriguing strategy that could pay off big-time if Microsoft delivers on its OS plans -or at least, what is generally understood about its notoriously flexible OS plans.
As and when it gets NT 5.0 out the door, Microsoft will be pushing hard to establish it as the final unification of its operating system platforms, and to shift users away from Windows 9x - 98 is currently thought of as the last iteration of the company's DOS-based operating systems.
So if this actually happens, chucking out the old DOS baggage could be a serious advantage for Transmeta. But it's a big if - Microsoft has been talking about convergence for years, but never quite getting there.
But on the other hand, NT does run on Risc processors, and Alpha (the only one now that runs a version of NT with a future) is important to Microsoft in getting NT 5.0 to 64-bit. So if Transmeta points itself into the middle of this territory, it might well be able to build a cheaper, faster NT 5.0 platform. Which presumably will also run Linux
© 1998 Situation Publishing