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A year ago: x86 to disappear with IA-64?

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Several US newswires and papers reported on a seminar presented by Lesley Gwennap of The Microprocessor Report at the beginning of last week. The thrust of the talk was that x86 compatibility, which Intel has always maintained are its chip crown jewels, so to speak, will disappear when the IA-64 Merced becomes established as a processor for the enterprise. But we understand that while this could happen around 2005, even then there are doubts about whether Intel will dare to do this. First of all, it is clear that Intel has now bifurcated its processor plans, with the IA-32 and IA-64 roadmap two separate creatures with two separate existences. The 32-bit roadmaps are predicated on the continuing adoption of 32-bit NT and it would be only the bravest of large corporations which would swap its entire infrastructure for an untried and untested 64-bit NT, especially in its early years. While Gwennap is probably right that this plan is part of Intel's scheme for the future, it is so far ahead that it is hardly worth thinking about. You only have to read about Intel's so-called plans four years ago to realise that like every other computing company, it changes its mind, all the time. The now-doomed Pentium Pro, for example, was at release time expected to be the platform for Windows NT 32. Yet Intel was ahead of itself with that processor and unexpectedly ran into production difficulties that effectively made it a kamakazi chip. All that SRAM on board was far too expensive a proposition for Intel or its customers and so suddenly the whole world and its canine followers was expected to adopt the Cartridge Slot solutions. One corporate user The Register talked to last week said that many, if not most, of the famous "islands of information" that the vendors were so keen on plugging three or four years ago, are still separated from each other, with no plans to build tunnels or bridges between them. He said that the lag between vendors' technology and end users' realisation of this technology was still a long way off. Far from those gaps being bridged, he added, the islands were experiencing the archipelago equivalent of continental drift, mostly because his company - like many others - were still trying to get to grips with the Year 2000 problem. That occupied so much time that he, at least, was politely showing the vendors the door... ®

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