Intel 64-bit plan baffles AMD

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Intel’s announcement that it would finally release its own 64-bit extension to developers next US fiscal quarter has raised eyebrows at rival chip-maker AMD.

Intel's announcement that it would finally release its own 64-bit extension to developers next US fiscal quarter has raised eyebrows at rival chip-maker AMD.

Craig Barrett, global CEO at Intel, claimed in his keynote at this week's Intel Developer Forum in the US that the chip-making giant would finally ship 64-bit extensions in its 32-bit Xeon processors next quarter.

Barrett said that the next generation of its Xeon processors -- slated for release next quarter -- would have extensions that would allow developers to build 64-bit applications on the 32-bit processors.

Such applications would be operable with Intel's 64-bit, and help with porting applications from 32-bit to 64-bit platforms and vice versa.

However, rival chip-maker AMD began shipping its 64-bit compatible Opteron and Athlon chips last year.

John Robinson, Australia and New Zealand country manager for AMD, said his understanding was that the Xeon was only aimed at the server workstation end of the market.

Conversely, AMD's Athlon 64 products were aimed at the desktop and mobile space as well -- an area which Robinson believed would sell well this year.

This seemed an about-face for Intel, he alleged. 'Last year, they said they were never going to come out with 64-bit on the personal end, but I find it a bit baffling now that they come out and say something like this,' Robinson said.

He said he would have thought Intel's Itanium range a more logical choice for a 64-bit extension, partly because it could offer better pricing.

'They could extend 64-bit to something x86-capable -- because that's what AMD did -- including an x86 product in 64-bit, which continues the same generational transition that you had when you went from 16-bit to 32-bit,' Robinson said.

However, he said Intel's announcement would be unlikely to threaten AMD sales of its Opteron and Athlon portfolio since it meant products would ship too late to take advantage of a current PC refresh.

Businesses were beginning to replace PCs that were last bought in bulk just in advance of Y2K, and thus needed to plan now for 64-bit computing, he pointed out.

If Intel was only releasing its first 64-bit developer extension next quarter, it would still be a year or so before any Intel 64-bit-compatible processors became commercially available to OEMs.

'There's no reason to wait for any other x86, 64-bit technology, because we have it now, we're shipping it now. And the most important thing is ours works in every application in 32-bit that's available,' Robinson said.

Asked how sales were going, Robinson claimed that analyst figures had not included chip sales to more than a few major brands. Thus, research released did not show the true sales picture, he said.

Opteron and Athlon sales were going 'much better' than had been reported, Robinson said, but he could not disclose actual figures.

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