Intel Corp. last week put down speculation that the chip maker might abandon its 64-bit Itanium design. Questions about its commitment to the Itanium arose following reports last month that the company was developing an alternative 64-bit chip based on the Pentium architecture. The stories speculated that the alternative was being developed in case Itanium, which has struggled with slow sales since its release last year, falters.
At its semiannual developers forum here last week, however, a senior Intel executive denounced such thinking, arguing that the Itaniums unique architecture is best suited for competing against established 64-bit vendors selling RISC-based chips.
"Theres nothing that can replace an Itanium processor when your competition is a true RISC, 64-bit machine. Nothing, nothing, nothing," said Mike Fister, general manager of Intels Enterprise Platforms Group.
To further reassure developers of Intels commitment to the Itanium, Fister unveiled the road map for the Itanium through the next two years.
In 2004, the Santa Clara, Calif., company plans to introduce a largely redesigned Itanium processor, code-named Montecito, that will be built using a far more advanced 0.09-micron manufacturing process.
Developers at the conference said they still believe Intel is working on the Pentium-based alternative, but they also believe Intel will continue to produce the Itanium for at least the next couple of years.
If the Itanium doesnt gain any ground by then, Intel may dump it, said developers who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Also last week, Intel rolled out three Xeon chips for servers, code-named Prestonia, that are the first to feature the companys new hyperthreading technology.
Hyperthreading essentially enables a single processor to work like two virtual chips, resulting in performance boosts of up to 40 percent, officials said.