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Intel, HP to unveil Merced instructions

The two will publish the instruction set for the IA-64 generation of processors tomorrow, a move that will spark development.

Intel and Hewlett-Packard will publish the instruction set and a programmer's guide for the IA-64 generation of processors tomorrow, a move that will allow developers to start tuning applications for the platform.

The publication of the instruction set will be the latest in a series of events geared toward easing the commercial adoption of the IA-64 chip architecture. IA-64 is the official name for the chip design that will form the basis for a series of 64-bit chips for servers and workstations from Intel. These new chips will compete with established 64-bit processors from Sun Microsystems and Compaq Computer's Alpha division.

Current Intel chips handle 32 bits; 64-bit refers to the amount of data these chips handle in a single clock cycle. Intel and HP collaborated on the instruction set for IA-64.

Although the bulk of the research on the platform is complete, the companies now face the task of popularizing the chip architecture with server manufacturers, corporate customers, and software developers. Both companies have been actively evangelizing the platform for years, but the efforts will likely increase over the next year with the coming of Merced, Intel's first IA-64 chip, in the middle of 2000. Recently, for instance, Intel established a venture capital fund to spur the development of IA-64 applications.

One of the next major milestones will be the announcement of samples of the Merced chip, due in the second half of the year, sources said. Further manufacturing milestones are sure to follow.

Although touted by the companies, one of the questions surrounding Merced is how large of an impact it will have on the overall market. A successor called McKinley, which the company says will be twice as powerful as Merced, will appear in late 2001. McKinley's relatively quick release date has prompted many analysts to speculate that Merced may largely turn into a test vehicle for the architecture.

Intel and HP executives will release the programmer's guide and instruction set at an event tomorrow in Santa Clara, California, an Intel spokeswoman said. The two companies will also discuss how they will promote IA-64 based chips for e-commerce and other applications.