Intel (INTC) is hard at work on a chip that could
debut at a
speed as high as 600 MHz and soon after rev up to 1 GHz,
making today's fastest Intel processors seem snail-like in
The chip, code-named Merced or the P7 processor, is
first 64-bit design. The chip will be based on an
The newest Merced details are based on a report in the
Microprocessor Report (MPR), a highly regarded
the semiconductor industry. MPR editor in chief and
the article, Linely Gwennap, says that the article is
developed by MPR and is not from any sources at Intel
certainly not approved information from Intel."
Within a year of the chip's release, its speed could
1 GHz, far outpacing today's fastest Intel chips that
run at 200
MHz, the report says.
At 1 GHz, performance of Merced is expected to exceed
of 100, according to the widely used SPECfp95 standard,
which rates the processor's performance in engineering and
scientific applications, the report said. Currently,
Pro musters about a 6.70 rating.
Around the same time that the chip reaches speeds of 1
Intel will also "shrink" the size of the chip so that the
manufacturing cost can fall below $100. That means the
processor will be aimed at the mass market of PCs in
businesses, not a specialty market for engineering or
In addition to a faster clock speed, the chip is
execute multiple instructions at one time. The more
instructions a chip can process simultaneously, the better
performance it offers--above and beyond the pure speed
measures how fast each instruction is processed.
"Our best guess is that [it] will be able to [process]
instructions at once," said Gwennap. The Pentium Pro, now
Intel's fastest offering, can only process about three
The chip is also expected to use a new approach to
instructions called Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW),
packs many instructions together. The Microprocessor
also published a time schedule for delivery of the chip.
"We believe the chip is currently scheduled to reach
in the first half of 1999," the report said. Since Intel's
next-generation production process won't be ready
1999 or early 2000, Merced will initially be created
same chip production technology as Intel's latest P6
according to the report.
The chip is expected to be compatible with the current x86
architecture. Its author believes that Intel is
developing a plan so
that the new chip will be able to run existing
"For Merced, we must consider the issue of x86
compatibility...the chip could include...x86
The report also adds that "assuming the chip uses some
emulation for x86 applications, the question is the
the emulator." A relatively efficient emulator "would give
Merced x86 performance similar to or better than that of a
400-MHz Willamette [processor], the fastest x86 chip
in the Merced time frame."
Emulation is technology which is designed to allow a
based on one architecture to run software compatible with
The fastest chips in the industry currently come from
Equipment and run at about 500 MHz. Digital's processors
could eventually reach performance levels equal to, or
the Merced in the same time frame. Future PowerPC
processors, which power Macintosh and Macintosh-compatible
computers, could also reach performance levels which
out-perform the Merced.
Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.
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