On the heels of what it said were brisk sales of 64-bit enabled Xeon server processors, Intel executives said Tuesday they will begin enabling Pentium 4 desktop processors for 64-bit computing later this month.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chipmaker will begin rolling out the Pentium 4 600 series -- with a 64-bit instruction set -- in its higher-end desktop offerings, and then gradually throughout its Pentium 4 lineup through the year.
Intel executives made the announcement during a telephone news conference. The 64-bit instruction set, which Intel calls EM64T, will ship later this month with existing, high-end single core Pentium 4 processors, said Rob Crooke, vice president of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group.
Intel will come to market with a 64-bit desktop processor about 18 months after its rival, Advanced Micro Devices, Sunnyvale, Calif., began shipping its own 64-bit enabled Athlon 64 processor. Crooke said that while the company had been reluctant to ship a 64-bit desktop chip earlier, the time was now right as 64-bit desktop software was coming closer to reality.
"I don't think we've changed our position on that at all," Crooke said. "The server market has been ramping [to 64-bit enabled server processors], as the workstation market has had increased demand for that. Certainly, we expect that now is the right time for that." The market expects software giant Microsoft, Redmond, Wash., to begin shipping a 64-bit version of Windows some time this year.
To buttress the point, Crooke said that the fourth quarter of 2005 Intel shipped its millionth unit of 64-bit enabled Xeon processors " a product it launched just six months earlier.
In addition to the 64-bit instruction set, the new technology will include a larger L3 cache; Intel's SpeedStep technology for power savings; and the company's Execute Disable Bit feature that can protect systems from certain types of virus attacks, the company said.
The announcement came one day after Intel said it would begin shipping its vaunted dual-core processors for the desktop in the second quarter.
On the server side, Phil Brace, director of marketing for Intel's Digital Enterprise Group, said the company would "refresh" its Xeon line later this quarter by shipping the next version of the server processor, code-named "Truland." The processor will be a four-socket Xeon multi-processor capable chip with increased front-side bus capability, system bus error correction and advanced power management features. Later this year, Brace said, the company would ship other 64-bit enabled MP Xeons, including one code-named "Potomac," with 8 MB of L3 Cache; one code-named "Cranford;" and the Intel 8500 chipset formerly code-named "Twin Castle."