Meanwhile on Wednesday, AMD introduced several new lines of 64-bit Opteron processors, including new low-power versions, and lowered the prices of several current parts.
The market tremor occurred on Tuesday at Intel Developer Forum here, when Intel chief executive Craig Barrett announced that the companys code-name Nocona, a two-way server processor and a member of its Xeon line, will add the 64-bit extensions beginning in the second quarter. And a "Potomac" derivative designed for servers with the extensions will enter the market early next year, the company said.
Although the Opteron is a 64-bit processor, AMD has positioned it directly against the 32-bit Xeon, even pricing the chip at the same price as the Xeon.
Now that Intel has followed AMDs lead into the market for 64-bit computing, the leveled playing field could play to Intels advantage over the long term, analysts said. In the short term, AMD will have the market all to itself, and the advantage of an established customer base and infrastructure.
Over time, however, analysts said the capabilities of both the Opteron as well as the Xeon processors will more broadly overlap, meaning that price will become more of a lever in winning sales.
Vendors that offer systems based on both the Opteron and the Xeon were expected to continue to support both processors.
"Customer choice will guide our positioning," said Jeff Benck, vice president for IBMs eServer BladeCentre in Armonk, N.Y.
"Today our e325 is a great price/performance 1U platform. Our current x335 today is Xeon-based and has many additional enterprise features and once the Xeon with 64-bit extensions are available, it will support that too. So we will be able to offer 64-bit extensions across our uni[processor] and two-way platforms regardless of whether it is Intel or AMD. And that gives customers the ability to choose whats best for them."
Officials at Hewlett-Packard Corp. of Palo Alto, Calif., also said that the company plans to design systems around the forthcoming 64-bit Xeons, even as the company reportedly evaluates Opteron-based systems for launch later this quarter.