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LGA775 will not bring 64-bit to desktop P4s yet – Intel

Waiting for Longhorn

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Intel has reaffirmed its pledge that it will not to offer a 64-bit x86 desktop processor for some time yet.

The company this week told Xbit Labs that the 775-pin version of the 90nm Pentium 4, aka 'Prescott', would not ship with EM64T enabled, contradicting earlier reports that it would be.

Intel's Enhanced Memory 64 Technology (EM64T) was officially announced last February at its Developer Forum. At the time, Bill Siu, general manager of Intel's Desktop Platforms Group, said that the chip giant would not ship a mainstream Pentium 4 with EM64T until Microsoft was ready to ship the next major version of Windows, codenamed 'Longhorn'.

Why the wait? Because Intel wants to ensure solid software support for 64-bit processing, and that means not only an operating system - a public beta release of Windows XP is already available - but a wide range of 64-bit device drivers. The process of recompiling device drivers for a 64-bit desktop PC would take "some time to complete", said Siu.

"We expect to see comprehensive 64-bit support in the Longhorn timeframe," he said.

That's not to say Intel won't offer a 64-bit Pentium 4. According to the Xbit report, the company will provide such processors to system integrators building P4-based single-processor workstations. Intel already offers P4s to these customers.

The final version of 64-bit Windows XP is expected during the second half of the year. It will bring a mainstream OS to AMD's 64-bit Athlon 64, but at this stage it's unclear what level of driver and application support the processor will have in the desktop space. However, the very fact it a 64-bit x86 OS and CPU combo is available may accelerate the driver development process, yielding that "comprehensive 64-bit support" sooner than Intel expects.

It's hard to imagine Intel waiting any longer to release a 64-bit desktop P4. AMD needs the availability of 64-bit drivers and Windows as much as Intel does, but while Intel is closing off the 64-bit option in the meantime, AMD has made a virtue of it. Linux doesn't score too highly in either company's thinking - at least as far as the desktop market goes - but at least AMD can say that its 64-bit desktop chips have OS support and is letting customers try out the facility. ®

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