Intel has spoken for the first time about its joint microprocessor design with Hewlett-Packard.
The chip, codenamed Merced, will mark a turning point in Intel's history as it represents a move away from current CISC designs on .18 micron wafers to a more advanced architecture.
The processor, which will be available in late 1998 or early 1999, will be the first 64-bit Intel processor to hit the desktop market, although it will not replace the current 32-bit architecture immediately.
According to Intel's president and CEO Andy Grove: "We will carry IA (Intel Architecture) 32 and IA 64 (Merced) in parallel."
Unlike the Pentium Pro, which is not able to run 16-bit applications any faster than 32-bit applications, the Merced will be backwards compatible with 32-bit, thereby delivering performance gains.
Microsoft has already confirmed that work has begun on 64-bit versions of Windows NT - version 5.0. It is now waiting for Intel to deliver the processor.
Linley Gwennap, editor-in-chief of the Microprocessor Report, said once the hardware and software is matched together, the chip would offer "unrivalled performance". He added: "Merced is the most eagerly awaited of the Intel designs because we don't know for sure how they will implement it. One thing's for sure though, it will be fast."
Grove did not elaborate on the actual design type of Merced, but Gwennap expects the chip to "include more compile-time instruction sequencing or VLIW (Very Long Instruction Word), which is very different to current CISC designs".
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