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Linus Torvalds’ old company now officially dead

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Linus Torvalds' old company now officially dead

San Jose (CA) – We are not quite sure yet if we should be happy or sad about this one. Novafora announced that it has completed its acquisition of Transmeta, closing the last chapter for a company that entered the spotlight because of one famous employee, Linux creator Linus Torvalds, and set out to challenge Intel and pioneer an era of low-power microprocessors.

Novafora said it has completed its purchase of Transmeta, which was announced in November of last year.
 
“With the completion of our acquisition of Transmeta, we are now focusing on putting its innovative technology to work,” said Zaki Rakib, CEO of Novafora. “The addition of Transmeta’s power management technology to our video processor will enable us to target Novafora’s products to the broadest range of video-oriented devices.”

Those who have been around for a decade or so may remember those rumors of speculations about that company Linux Torvalds is working for. Transmeta had been in “stealth mode” for more than four years, before it announced out its low-power Crusoe processor in January of 2000, Curiously enough, that happened one day after Intel announced its first lower power SpeedStep processor, the Pentium III-M.

The excitement for Transmeta did not last long and there were not many design wins for the chip – the most significant may have been the integration of Crusoe in a silver-purple Sony Vaio sub-notebook, which this writer can remember all too well since his editor-in-chief at the time was as proud of this computer as a teenager is on her or his first date. But it became evident very soon that Transmeta could not match the marketing and engineering power of its rivals and the decision was made to shut down the processor manufacturing business in late 2005.

Transmeta transitioned into an IP licensing company, hoping that its core asset – LongRun2 – would provide enough revenue to keep the company afloat. However, since late 2005 Transmeta was able to license LongRun2, IP blocks, materials or its microprocessor technology to only a few customers – including NEC, Fujitsu, Sony, Toshiba and Nvidia. The problem with this business model was that revenue was only coming in through consulting work and shipping products. Sony was a big consulting customer initially and NEC remained the only customer with shipping products, effectively draining the company’s cash reserves at a stunning pace.

However, whenever we thought Transmeta had no way out, another lifeline came out of nowhere. Most significantly, there was an investment from AMD and Intel settled a patent infringement suit filed by Transmeta for $150 million in early 2008. That money filled Transmeta’s bank account, but it was clear that the LongRun2 licensing business had no future. Some believed that this cash infusion may actually have created the environment to enable a sale of the Transmeta. Of course, we should not forget a $25 million license fee paid by Nvidia for LongRun2 in August 2008.

At that time, Linus Torvalds, other key employees and the initial vision for the future of the company were long gone and it now seems that the Transmeta’s technology will be integrated into video processors: “With the completion of our acquisition of Transmeta, we are now focusing on putting its innovative technology to work,” said Zaki Rakib, CEO of Novafora, in a prepared statement. “The addition of Transmeta’s power management technology to our video processor will enable us to target Novafora’s products to the broadest range of video-oriented devices.”

Hopefully, Novafora is the place where LongRun2 can develop its potential it was once promised to have.