The Dark Horse: x86-64
Paper architectures and software simulations usually don’t warrant much attention in a world already full of real shipping processors. However, AMD’s planned extension of the x86 instruction set architecture to full 64 bit-hood, called x86-64, is lent an increasing air of credibility by the growing technical and commercial success of AMD’s K7 family of 32 bit x86 processors. The 64-bit K8 processor core, known by the development code name of hammer, will serve as the basis of a new generation of AMD processors targeting the PC desktop and entry-level server markets.
The first implementation of the K8, intended for the desktop, will apparently sample at the end of this year and start shipping in the second half of next year. Although it is unlikely that the K8 family will in any way challenge Intel’s McKinley in absolute performance, x86-64’s superior interoperability between 32 and 64 bit modes compared to IA64 may allow K8 to grab a significant market presence on the strength of its 32 bit x86 performance and aggressive pricing.
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