Intel shifts 64-bit emphasis

Intel plans to demonstrate a 64-bit revamp of its Xeon and Pentium processors in mid-February--an endorsement of a major rival's strategy and a troubling development for Intel's Itanium chip.

The demo, which follows the AMD64 approach of Intel foe Advanced Micro Devices, is expected at the Intel developer conference, Feb. 17 through 19 in San Francisco, according to sources familiar with the plan. Intel had code-named the technology Yamhill but now calls it CT, sources said. Adding 64-bit features would let "x86" chips such as Intel's Xeon and Pentium overcome today's 4GB memory limit but would undermine the hope that Intel's current 64-bit chip, Itanium, will ever ship in large quantities. A CT demonstration would send the message that prospective Itanium customers should put Itanium purchases on hold, said Peter Glaskowsky, editor in chief of In-Stat/MDR's Microprocessor Report.

"If they put all the effort into Xeon they put into Itanium, it could be a very impressive thing. They could get very close to the performance levels of Itanium," Glaskowsky said. But there would be a cost: "In the long run, if they were really serious about x86-64...it would kill Itanium." That would hurt Intel, which has staked much of its reputation on Itanium, but it would affect partners such as Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Graphics moreso; both rely on Itanium for their future server designs. Bill Kircos, an Intel spokesman, declined to comment on the CT name or plan other than to say, "We will include extensions in our chips, if our customers are requesting it and if the infrastructure is available, including a production operating system...tools, software and applications."

News source: C|Net News.com

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