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The critical mass of rumours regarding 64-bit enhancements for Intel’s 32-bit processors has probably been reached recently: all the online and offline media report about Intel’s own implementation of the so-called x86-64 conception. A story at News.com suggests that Intel would demonstrate its Xeon and Pentium processors “CT” with 64-bit extensions as early as next-month.

Apparently, everything is still about the mysterious Yamhill project that is now named CT. It is not clear which enhancements had been made to Intel’s 32-bit microprocessors, but the most notable one is ability to address more than 4GB of random access memory by processors like Xeon or Pentium. It is claimed that Intel will demonstrate its new CT versions of Xeon and/or Pentium products in mid-February at IDF in San Francisco.

Unofficial information about possibility of Intel’s IA32 CPUs with certain 64-bit elements has been available for a number of years already, though, Intel has been very consistent in denying such information. However, nowadays there are more and more comments from Intel itself hinting processors that can run 64-bit and 32-bit code.

Intel’s President and Chief Operating Officer on Wednesday had a conversation with Schwab SoundView Capital Markets analyst Hans Mosesmann said, answering a question about 64-bit personal computers and workstations: “You can be fairly confident that when there is software from an application and operating system standpoint that takes advantage of it, we will be there.” “64-bit [processors], with backwards 32-bit capability,” he clarified.

Generally speaking, Intel now says distinct “yes” to affordable 64-bit computers, but does not say whether it talks about high-end Pentium/Xeon chips, or inexpensive Itanium products.

In the second half of the year Microsoft is said to release its Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems along with Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition for 64-Bit Extended Systems operating systems, allowing CPUs with 64-bit extensions to take advantage from their enhancements. Is it something Intel is talking about?

Itanium 2 chips are not just 64-bit CPUs, but microprocessors with totally different EPIC architecture, whereas Xeon processors, in case they get 64-bit capabilities via CT, will still be basically the same IA32 devices. Keeping in mind all the enhancements Itanium has, it will still be utilised by high-performance multi-processor servers, whereas Xeon and Pentium chips are intended for more affordable applications.

However, such an approach would essentially restrict Itanium from becoming something massive throughout a number of years, as not consumer software developers would touch IA64 in case there are more reasonably priced and popular Xeon or Pentium chips with support for crucial 64-bit enhancements.

Intel did not comment on the story.

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