Intel?s much-hyped 64-bit Merced processor won?t ship until mid-2000, the chipmaker revealed on Friday.
Intel had long maintained that the chips would ship in the second half of 1999. However, Intel spokesperson Marion Koehler denied that the company had run into any specific technical hurdles. ?We just underestimated the full scope of the implementation," she said. ?We did an extensive review of the product development plan, and we discovered that we need more time."
Samples of the chip are still expected to be available by mid-1999, but volume production won?t start until the middle of 2000.
The announcement caught analysts by surprise. However, reactions were subdued.
?I think Intel has been extremely candid about its progress?, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with Dataquest.
Brookwood said the delay would not harm Intel much. ?They had so many products coming up in the server space, that the market might not be able to digest it all in 1999.?
Intel is about to ship its new Pentium II Xeon processors, especially targeted towards servers. In 1999, Intel is expected to launch a successor to the Pentium II codenamed Katmai.
The Merced architecture has received unprecedented advance support from both server manufacturers and software developers.
Many of these vendors will now have to modify their own product roadmaps. Novell, Microsoft, SCO and Sun have all announced that they would have a Merced version of their operating systems ready by the end of 1999, when the processor was originally scheduled to ship.
Two weeks ago, Unisys said it would ship 32-processor Merced servers as soon as the CPU is available.
The Merced processor is to be the first processor in what Intel is calling its IA-64 architecture. It is based on a new, 64-bit instruction set developed by Intel and Hewlett Packard. Though it will be able to run existing x86 code, it will probably be slower than 32-bit Intel processors when doing so. To benefit from the new processor?s speed, applications must be recompiled.
The delay does mean that Risc architectures such as IBM?s PowerPC, Sun?s Sparc and Digital?s Alpha will remain unchallenged at the high end of the server market for a while longer.
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