At long last, Intel gives users a peek at 64-bit Merced chip

At long last, Intel gives users a peek at 64-bit Merced chip

By Mark A. Kellner

Special to GCN

PALM SPRINGS, Calif.'At Intel Corp.'s Developer Forum here late last month, chairman and president Craig Barrett gave the first public demonstration of the long-delayed Merced processor, the first CPU in the company's 64-bit IA-64 architecture.

Barrett's demo used a notebook computer running a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows. He said that Intel has begun shipping the first engineering units of the Merced and that systems incorporating it are due in mid-2000.

Barrett said he did not know the exact clock speed of the demonstration chip, but he added, 'I'm glad the damn thing is up and running.' The Merced chips will first go into servers and high-end workstations.

Intel and collaborator Hewlett-Packard Co. originally were supposed to have had the Merced and the IA-64 architecture ready in 1997. Barrett said that he was unhappy about the slips in production but that he was pleased about the number of equipment makers that have committed to build products using the Merced.

Intel officials said that along with the trial version of 64-bit Windows, the Merced also runs Linux, functioning as a Web server. Although Barrett acknowledged that Linux is a force in the marketplace, he downplayed the notion that open-source software represents the next move forward in computing technology.

'Linux has fans; Windows [NT] has fans,' he said. 'With Merced, we're working with eight different operating systems, as we did with the IA-32 processors.'

In a separate announcement, Microsoft Corp. said software developers can get ready for the 64-bit version of Windows, due in the first half of next year, by using the Windows 2000 software developer and driver developer kits available now.

Applications created with the tools can be recompiled for the 64-bit environment, Microsoft said.

In addition to the Merced news, the 2,500 hardware and software developers who attended the semiannual conference heard the latest on the Pentium III processor.

Barrett surprised them when he said that the next-generation Pentium IIIs, code-named Coppermine, will be released next month and will have clock speeds of at least 700 MHz.

Look, but don't buy

Barrett and Pat Gelsinger, vice president and general manager of Intel's desktop products group, showed an 800-MHz Pentium III processor built through an 0.18-micron manufacturing process. They said it was the fastest standard processor Intel has ever shown running at room temperature, but they did not predict that Coppermine chips will be that fast.

Along with next month's launch, Intel is planning to release a mobile Pentium III version drawing on the Coppermine technology but optimized for portable systems, said Frank E. Spindler, vice president of the architecture business group and director of marketing for the mobile and handheld products group.

Spindler said Intel has large quantities of the new mobile processor, which will run at higher frequencies with lower power requirements than comparable Pentium II chips. The mobile chip will have a 100-MHz system bus and will come with a processor serial number for asset tracking and security.

More or less

He said the new processors will encourage more advanced operating systems and applications, allow richer multimedia with less overhead, and adjust to the differing bandwidths of in-office broadband and LAN connections and on-the-road dial-up modems, all without significantly reducing the quality or speed of 3-D rendering and other functions.

Spindler also mentioned two other developments due early next year. One is a specification for Pre-Boot Authentication Services, designed to activate biometric and key-based security devices before boot-up. An authentication failure would render a notebook PC unusable. The feature is designed to be a deterrent to theft, Spindler said.

The other advance, eagerly awaited by users and equipment makers, is the Bluetooth wireless communications technology designed for short-range communications at low power.

In an office, data access points could be used for connectivity. Though specified to run at 1 Mbps, Spindler said, his Bluetooth demonstration unit communicated at a rate of 700 Kbps, or almost half the rate of a 1.5-Mbps T1 line.

Despite ups and downs in the notebook market caused by supply problems related to LCDs, Spindler said he is bullish on the future of mobile computing. He said Intel, which employs 65,000 people, will use notebook PCs for 80 percent of its network clients by 2001, and he said he hears similar projections from large customers.

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