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Transmeta names new CEO
March 2, 2001: 2:55 p.m. ET

Ditzel to focus on technology as Allen assumes chief executive's role
By Staff Writer Richard Richtmyer
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - David Ditzel, the founder of upstart chipmaker Transmeta Corp., has given up his post as the company's chief executive in order to focus on product strategy and technology development.

Mark K. Allen, who in January 2000 joined Transmeta as its president and chief operating officer, will take the reins as CEO. Both executives will remain members of Transmeta's board of directors.

The management shift comes as the company is maturing from a firm that was focused on developing and selling the marketplace on a new technology into one that now must focus more on how it operates, according to Ditzel, whose new title is vice-chairman and chief technology officer.

"As a brand new startup company, one of the things you have to do is go out and raise money and be a visionary," Ditzel told "I came up with the basic ideas for the technology here, so I'm more of a technologist. And I really had a longing to get back on the engineering side."

graphicPrior to founding Transmeta in 1995, Ditzel worked in advanced computer design for more than 25 years. He was one of the pioneers of the Reduced Instruction Set Computer, or RISC, processor design techniques that are now used by all the major processor vendors. He also was the chief technical officer of Sun Microsystems' microelectronics division and directed the research and design on the company's "SPARC" processors.

During his 12-year career, Allen has focused on high-technology operations and manufacturing. He has served as: vice president of operations for nVidia, a graphics chip designer; C-Cube Microsystems, a digital video technology company; and Cypress Semiconductor.

Transmeta, which is headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., designs and markets low-power microprocessors under the brand name "Crusoe." The chips are made specifically for portable computers and Internet access devices, where low-power is important because it improves battery life. They were first introduced in January 2000.

While Intel, the No. 1 processor maker, offers chips with similar specifications, Transmeta's Crusoe processors differ in the way they achieve their lower power consumption.

Transmeta's chips are designed using a patented technique the company has dubbed "code morphing." That means they use software to translate the instructions typically handled directly by the transistors on other chips.

graphicThe code morphing technology allows the Crusoe processors to adjust the clock speed at which they operate depending on the specific task, which Transmeta says enables them to use less power and run cooler than competing processors.

Crusoe has been the subject of some debate recently. Some detractors argue that the code-morphing technology robs Crusoe of actual processing speed, pointing to benchmark tests that show a Crusoe processor running at 600 MHz logging performance equivalent to a 300 MHz Pentium III mobile processor from Intel.

Transmeta rebuts those claims, saying current industry benchmarks are designed to measure the performance of chips that operate at the same clock speed all the time and cannot provide a fair comparison between Crusoe and other processors.

To be sure, Crusoe processors have been making their way into a growing number of computing products since they first were introduced. At a recent industry trade show, executives showcased products including ultra-light notebooks, wireless "Web pads," and Internet access terminals from more than 10 different manufacturers. graphic

Transmeta also has been making an aggressive push into the market for network servers. RLX Technologies is expected to introduce a Crusoe-based sever this month. OEMs-Amphus and FiberCycle Technologies also are reportedly eyeing possibilities of Crusoe in their server products.

Earlier this year, Merrill Lynch analyst Joe Osha initiated coverage of the company's stock with a "buy" rating, giving high marks to Transmeta's core technology, which he said promises to "act as a disruptive influence on existing computing solutions."

And that's a message Ditzel said he will be championing in his new role as chief technology officer. "It's more appropriate for a chief technology officer to be out there talking about the future product strategy and technology development," he said.

Shares of Transmeta (TMTA: Research, Estimates) were down 6 cents at $20.25 in Friday afternoon trading. The stock has fallen 60 percent from a high of $50.87, which it reached just after the company made its debut on Nasdaq last November. graphic