January 14, 2003 9:13 AM PST

Transmeta notches up notebook security

Chipmaker Transmeta is aiming to help notebook owners tighten the security of their personal data by incorporating into its Crusoe line features that protect sensitive information.

Transmeta said Tuesday that it is building several security features into its chips for the first time. These features include an encryption engine and the ability to store digital certificates and encryption keys.

The addition of the security features to the TM5800 chip will let notebook makers build machines that make their owners' passwords and other data more resistant to theft. Transmeta envisions the security features being used mainly to protect data for notebooks used on wireless networks, the company said.

Transmeta's approach sets it apart from its major competitor, Intel. By building in encryption, Transmeta is essentially giving away security features for free with its processors.

To add security to computers with Intel chips, for example, companies typically use separate security chips or add security software, which is typically easier to thwart than hardware. To date, Intel has offered encryption features built into chipsets--which are chips that handle data in a PC--but not its processors.

Extra chips add costs and design complexity to computers, Transmeta argues, even if the additional costs are small.

Transmeta chips that include the new technologies will go on sale in large volume to computer makers starting in the second half of this year, the company said.

Meanwhile, Transmeta is also working on a new chip for notebooks. The chip, code-named Astro, will consume less power than the Crusoe TM5800 family of processors and will offer better performance. The TM5800 is available now at speeds of up to 1GHz.

 

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