Intel's Merced may never see the light of day

But don't worry, Foster could fill the gap

While awfully clever folk argue about Merced's emulation of IA32 –- will it be software or hardware? (It'll be full-blown hardware, guys, just trust us on this one), they're ignoring a far more interesting question. After Willamette, Chipzilla's next IA32 part is codenamed Foster and is scheduled to appear alongside Merced in mid 2000 (although the way things are panning out, it'll likely appear before Merced). Foster will offer markedly superior performance to Merced when running 32-bit applications (up to 2x according to some sources), because the Merced IA32 emulation will simply be a complete 0.18 micron IA32 processor dropped onto the same piece of silicon –- a next generation Celeron perhaps? So now for that interesting question: Will the IA32 Foster wonder chip offer IA64 emulation? Well, not in hardware, but a 32-bit IA64 software emulator already exists for developers who just can't wait for real 64-bit silicon. A 32-bit processor offering 2x Merced performance on 32-bit apps (which, of course, includes the IA64 emulator) would make a very attractive alternative to Merced itself. What price Merced never appearing at all and Foster with IA64 emulation becoming the entry-level processor paving the way for the first 'real' IA64 processor, McKinley (double the performance of Merced), in 2001? Answers on a postcard please. ®

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