Intel Potomac to Support x86-64?

IA32 to Feature AMD64?

by Anton Shilov
09/29/2003 | 07:41 AM

There are rumours about Intel’s future-generation Xeon processors for 4P and 8P platforms code-named Potomac. Unofficial sources close to semiconductor giant claim that the chip due to come in the second half next year will support x86-64 or similar instructions. If the report is correct, although, it seems to be a very strange one, this will be the first time in history when Intel adopts AMD’s extensions.


AMD has always adopted extensions developed by Intel, including MMX, SSE and SSE2 as well as quite some innovations brought by Intel in the eighties and the first half of the nineties. Intel, however, has never implemented technologies developed by AMD, including numerous versions of the famous 3DNow!. The industry analysts suggest that Intel did not want to adopt the rival’s technologies in order not to encourage software developers to optimise their titles for AMD’s innovations, but stick to Intel’s extensions. This not only gave Intel an advantage, but left AMD without, just what the major CPU company wanted.

There is a unique situation today. AMD already provides 64-bit platforms for high-end desktop and mainstream server platforms, whereas Intel pushes its IA64 only for very high-end segments. Even though the company recently started to offer its Itanium 2 processors for more price-conscious segments, in overall, IA64-based computers cost significantly more compared to IA32 and AMD64 powered solutions due to the cost of software. In short, software developers are looking forward to optimise their products for the hardware with a larger market share. When it comes to 64-bit CPUs in the mass market, surely, AMD is the clear winner here.

With x86-64 extensions officially enabled in high-end Xeon MP “Potomac” applications, AMD’s 64-bit architecture has a lot more chances for incorporating into future Intel’s desktop chips, giving a huge pros for Sunnyvale, California-based CPU company. Unfortunately for AMD, the company still does not provide compiler that helps programmers to optimise their applications for AMD Athlon 64 chips and x86-64 extensions. In case there are just a few software titles with support for AMD 64-bit extensions, there will be no point for Intel to implement AMD’s technology into its chips. Probably the most important trump for AMD here is expected availability of Microsoft Windows for AMD64 in the first half of 2004.