Intel Responds to AMD Threat, Broadens 64-Bit Line
Desktop and Mobile columnist Rob Enderle analyzes Intel's 64-bit announcement, and sees a big battle brewing for the 64-bit desktop.With the announcement that Intel is releasing a Xeon Processor with 64-bit extensions, perhaps the title of this column should be "Yamhill lives." This is because Yamhill was a much rumored, but never confirmed Intel project to bridge the 32- and 64-bit world with a transition chip. Yamhill was always believed to be an Itanium (Intels from-scratch 64-bit CPU) killer, because it would be less expensive and have better 32-bit support. So Intel denied the existence of Yamhilland most of us analysts believed it existed, but would never be released, because it would kill off Itanium. Given the billions invested in Itanium, wounding it with Yamhill seemed very unlikely. But the market has changed. The emergence of a new Xeon supporting 64-bit extensions (likely to be followed in a year or so by a similarly styled Pentium) does not mean that Itanium has to die. The native 64-bit processor has matured over the past several years and now delivers better 64-bit performance than any transitional product could. But for most buyers, Itanium is more of an academic than practical interest, as they simply dont buy this class of systemmostly high-end servers and workstations. These computers put massive loads on the CPUand have already moved to 64-bits. Here the evolved Itanium architecture has an almost insurmountable advantage over any transition chip, and will survive handilyalbeit at much lower volumes and higher costs than any transitional parts.
Itanium was supposed to be the transition part that moved Intels customers into 64-bit computing. But it was so late that the 32-bit performance wasnt fast enough to supplant the speediest Pentiums and Athlons. Thus it ended up as a 64-bit only platform. AMD spotted the opportunity, and developed the transitional product that Intel lacked. Thus AMD has enjoyed impressive design wins with companies like HP, IBM and Sun as a result of this first mover advantage.