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64-bit desktop computing unnecessary, says Intel CTO

Gelsinger happy with 4GB for now...

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IDF AMD and Apple are touting 64-bit computing on the desktop far too quickly, Intel CTO Pat Gelsinger said today.

Moving beyond 32-bit addressing is "really not needed for several more years", he told reporters attending the Intel Developer Forum in San Jose.

AMD, of course, isn't going to wait that long. Next week, the company will unveil its long-awaited 64-bit desktop processor, the Athlon 64. And, just a few weeks ago, Apple began shipping its Power Mac G5 desktop based on the 64-bit IBM PowerPC 970 processor.

But if Gelsinger's comments are anything to go by, Intel believes its rivals are coming to market too early.

"How many [users] have seen the crippling 4GB limit on their desktop PCs?" he asked. Today, he claimed, there aren't apps that need more than the 4GB offered by virtual memory schemes, let alone however much physical memory is available.

So when will 64-bit computing on the desktop become a necessity? "As a rule of thumb, address space [requirements] consume a bit every two years," he said. "We're at 1GB now and starting to see 2GB. So we're probably about three of four years away from really needing that 4GB on general desktops. That puts you out in the 2006/07 timeframe."

That's not to say Intel won't come to market with a desktop 64-bit processing sooner than that, either through licensed AMD64 technology or a variant of its own. But if it does, it clearly won't do so because the market needs that level of addressing.

Intel has long been rumoured to be working on an alternative to AMD64, codenamed 'Yamhill'. If Intel ever releases a processor based on Yamhill technology, it's unlikely to arrive before 2005, at least one analyst has claimed.

Some observers speculate that the next generation of Pentium processor, 'Prescott', already incorporates Yamhill, but has it physically turned off. If that's the case, it will almost certainly be in future Xeons too, ready to be switched on if Apple or AMD begin eating too deeply into Intel's market share. ®

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