The show on the road
For years a secretive company called Transmeta has been quietly working on a killer project to turbocharge the Internet. With backing from bigwigs like Linux creator Linus Torvalds, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and billionaire financier George Soros, it spent five years of research and about $100 million and announced a new line of super-powerful computer chips. Microprocessors, the brains within every computer, have been steadily getting better as new generations of models by Intel, Motorola, AMD, and others have rolled out every few months for the last few decades. So why do we need new ones? Mobility. Current chips run very hot and eat a lot of power. So when you run your laptop unplugged, it can't go very long without recharging. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Transmeta claims its Crusoe chips make batteries last about twice as long as the Intel Pentium family. They named the chip after Robinson Crusoe to evoke images of adventure and travel. "Computing is going mobile, and microprocessors must too," Transmeta CEO Dave Ditzel said as he showed off the chips to technology writers. The postage stamp-sized processors sell for between $65 for a 333-megahertz slowpoke to $329 for a 700-megahertz model, comparable to a top-of the-line Pentium. The computers that run them will eventually cost consumers between $500 and $2,500. New products are expected to come running to these new processors. A company called S3 is developing a book-sized mobile Web pad for surfing the Net. The unnamed device will sell for less than $1,000, have a modem jack that connects to a phone line, and is supposed to be easier and cheaper than a bulky laptop. How will this help the Internet? If users can stay running longer, hooked up to a wireless network or a cellular modem, they can keep surfing and connecting longer, which increases the integration of the Net into everyday life. The way the cookie crumbles
First Microsoft, now eBay. The Department of Justice is investigating whether the website that brought online auctions to millions violated federal antitrust laws. The probe that launched in December isn't about auctions as much as it is about how auctions are found. Several auction search engines have started up, letting users search several sites at once. eBay has fought this. The company cut a deal with one (Auction Rover), sued another (Bidder's Edge), and threatened still another (AuctionWatch). Since these companies have built their own business around the searches, this cuts into eBay's pie. AuctionWatch CEO Rodrigo Sales said his company spent "hundreds of thousands" to work around eBay's maneuvers after the megapower threatened to go to court. The Justice Department won't comment on the probe and, so far, there's no sign that an antitrust suit will be filed.
The show on the road