California, U.S.-based Intel Corp. says it plans to introduce in the coming months a technology to boost the power of data-serving business computers, a strategic shift expected to shake up its rivalry with Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
AMD, Intel's smaller competitor, introduced a similar technology for its computer chips last year. Executives of AMD have said they believe they will have a head start on Intel of 1 to 2 years—a leap forward for a company known more for building inexpensive Intel clones.
While AMD has long described the technology as the logical next step for both home and business computer users, Intel had called it premature for all but the most powerful "big iron" computers that power scientific research and heavy-duty business operations.
Intel had previously offered so-called 64-bit computing—a feature that allows a computer to hold massive amounts of memory and churn through larger chunks of data at once—and only for its most powerful business computer chips, known as Itanium.
It will now offer the feature in lower-end computer servers that use its Xeon chips in the second quarter of the year.
Intel also disclosed that the 64-bit feature already exists in its latest Pentium 4 processor used in the standard PCs that sit on office desks and inside homes. The 64-bit functionality, however, will only be switched on for computers sold as business servers, Intel said.
Intel CEO Craig Barrett made the announcement at an Intel-hosted conference in San Francisco, where about 4,800 product developers, analysts and reporters gathered to hear the world's largest chip maker sound off on computing and communications.
Mr. Barrett said the new chips would be designed to work with an upcoming version of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows operating system, expected to be released this year that will support 64-bit computing. That version of Windows will also support AMD's 64-bit processors.
Separately, Barrett said Wall Street firm Morgan Stanley would move to Itanium-based servers to handle its most computation-intensive operations. Itanium has failed to meet market expectations, analysts have said, and the gap between the performance of the Xeon and Itanium chips has given AMD an eager market for its own server chip, called Opteron. (Reuters)
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