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Sony makes a deal for the LongRun

Company will use Transmeta's power-saving technology in future chips

Sony has agreed to license Transmeta's LongRun2 power-management technology for its processors, the third licensee that Transmeta has signed in the last year, the companies said this week.

Last week, Transmeta told investors, analysts and the media that it signed "a global consumer electronics company" as its third licensee, but did not reveal that the company was Sony until Monday. Transmeta is restructuring its operations to focus on licensing its technologies and de-emphasise the production of its own chip designs.

LongRun2 allows chip makers to control the threshold voltage of a processor, or the amount of power needed to activate the transistor. This can help control current leakage during periods when a transistor is awaiting further instructions, a problem that has grown worse as the industry continues to shrink transistor sizes.

Sony, along with IBM and Toshiba, is working on a next-generation processor that will power the PlayStation 3 gaming console. Further details about that chip, code-named Cell, will be revealed at the upcoming International Solid State Circuits Conference in San Francisco on February 8. The company also manufactures chips for its own products, such as digital televisions and DVD players.

Transmeta believes it can finally reach profitability by licensing technologies such as LongRun2 and its software-based processor designs to chip companies such as Sony, Fujitsu, and NEC, the company's other licensing partners. The Santa Clara, California company's Crusoe and Efficeon processors for notebook PCs consume very little power, but have not caught on with the general public or corporate customers outside of Japan.

Financial details of the license were not disclosed. However, the deal should be similar to the other licenses that Transmeta has signed, with a large up-front payment followed by ongoing royalties, Transmeta executives say. In the third quarter of 2004, Transmeta recorded $3.7 million in licensing revenue, slightly more than it took in on sales of its chips.

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