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After watching AMD's success, Intel says the market is ready for widespread 64-bit business computing.
Intel may have been a little slow to jump on board, but the world's largest provider of computer processors says the time is now for 64-bit business computing, from desktop to servers to the high-end data-center applications.
"2005 is the year of 64-bit server computing," Phil Brace, general manager of Intel's digital enterprise group marketing, said during an Intel Webcast on Tuesday. "This is really a testament to end customer and [computer manufacturer] acceptance of the new platform capabilities."
Intel on Tuesday detailed plans for 64-bit computing across the desktop environment with a new 600 series of Pentium 4 processors and improved platform-level capabilities for Xeon processors in server market.
Intel has trailed rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in bringing out 64-bit processors. AMD has enjoyed success with Opteron, which it brought out in 2003 with the capability of running both 32-bit and 64-bit x86 instructions, followed by the Athlon64 for the desktop.
But Intel maintained it would move strongly into the 32/64-bit market when the time was right. "If you don't have the product ready, then it's never the way to go," says Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Insight64. "When you do have the product ready, then it's always the time to go. Clearly, it's going to be a 64-bit year."
After Opteron garnered AMD its most successful foray ever into business markets, Intel responded last year with the introduction of 64-bit extensions for its Xeon processor. The EM64T-enabled Xeons shipped a million units in the first six months and will ship a second million by the end of this month, Brace says. By the end of the first quarter this year, Intel expects that 80% of its Xeon processors will ship with 64-bit capability.
The next step for Intel is to provide 32/64-bit capability in its Pentium 4 line, beginning later this month, says Rob Cooke, VP of the digital enterprise group for Intel.
Intel will introduce the 600 series Pentium 4s beginning at the high end, and over the course of the year will roll the technology out throughout its desktop chip and chipset portfolio, he says.
In conjunction with the 64-bit capability, the 600 series will provide larger on-chip memory, improve power savings and security features, and provide headroom for the future, Cooke says.
The desktop market continues to wait for the introduction of a 64-bit operating system from Microsoft to begin taking full advantage of the 32/64-bit processors, analyst Brookwood says. That could come as soon as the second quarter.
"But if you're going to be buying desktop computers for your business, you are certainly going to want to know that when 64-bit operating systems and applications do start to emerge, you won't have to run and buy a bunch of new boxes," Brookwood says. "Being able to buy boxes that run 32-bit software now, and 64-bit software eventually, is an important part of the equation."
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