Transmeta Signs Licensing Deal with Intel, then Puts Itself on the Block

The fat lady is singing for Transmeta. The once known for its highly energy-efficient x86-compatible Crusoe and Efficeon microprocessors announced two new licensing deals with Intel today, and then proclaimed that the company was for sale.

The Intel deals accelerate the payment schedule on an earlier settlement, which will net Transmeta $91.5 million in cash. Under the original terms of the settlement—which gave Intel a perpetual, non-exclusive license to all Transmeta patents and patent applications, including any that Transmeta might acquire before December 31, 2017—Intel was to pay Transmeta $20 million per year each year from 2009 to 2013.

“Receiving these one-time payments strengthens our balance sheet,” said Transmeta CEO Les Crudele, “and allows potential buyers to more accurately evaluate our company.” Crudele went on to say that Transmeta will collect $265 million in cash payments for its intellectual property and patents in 2008. “We expect that our intellectual property portfolio and licensing business,” he said, “combined with our solid balance sheet, will be attractive to potential bidders. Crusoe was an innovative CPU that featured a virtual machine that emulated Intel’s x86 instruction set. The virtual machine translated the machine-code instructions it received from software programs running on it into an instruction set native to its core.

Crusoe made its way into a broad range of ultra-light notebook PCs, including several models of the Sony Vaio and the Fujitsu LifeBook P1120. Although the second-generation Efficeon added Opteron-like features, including an integrated memory controller and a HyperTransport bus, it enjoyed less success in a market increasingly dominated by Intel and AMD. Transmeta was founded in 1995, but the company shuttered its manufacturing operations in 2005 to focus on licensing its technology to third parties.

It’s an open question as to who would step up to buy what’s left of Transmeta. Neither AMD nor Nvidia are in any financial position to make an acquisition, and one would surmise that if Intel was interested, it would have simply bought the company instead of the licenses. Transmeta’s press release noted that “there can be no assurance that the process will result in a transaction that the Company’s Board determines is in the best interests of the Company or its stockholders. Further, there is no assurance concerning the type, form, structure, nature, results, timing or terms and conditions of any such transaction, even if a transaction does result from this process.”