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Partnership set to run RISC software on Intel chips

Chipmaker to help start-up with translation software enabling "Intel Inside" PCs to run programs for rival processors.

Intel has begun a partnership to help a start-up, Transitive, with software that enables computers with Intel chips to run programs written for rival processors.

Transitive's translation software will be used to let software from rival RISC (reduced instruction set computing) processors run on Intel's Itanium and Xeon server processors. The partnership is designed to make it easier for customers to scrap competitors' gear in favor of Intel-based systems.

"With this relationship with Intel, Intel is funding development and providing us access to engineers so we can accelerate the development of processor-operating system combinations," Transitive Chief Executive Bob Wiederhold said in an interview. Intel also will help with promotion and cooperation with software companies, he said, adding that customers will get the software from computer makers.

Intel is Transitive's third major publicly announced customer. The first was Silicon Graphics, whose customers can run software for their older MIPS-based computers on newer Itanium models. The second was Apple Computer, whose Transitive-based Rosetta product lets software for older PowerPC-based models run on new Intel Core-based machines.

Transitive announced the partnership at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco and said the first elements of the software would hit the market in 2006. However, the companies didn't say which of the likely RISC candidates--Sun's Sparc, Hewlett-Packard's PA-RISC, HP's Alpha, IBM's Power or SGI's MIPS--would be supported or targeted first.

Letting a computer run software written for another type has sometimes helped during technology transitions, such as Apple's switch from 68000-series Motorola processors to PowerPC models. But generally, the lackluster performance has kept its use to a narrow niche.

Intel, though, is bullish about Transitive. "Customers can expect to see outstanding performance of their RISC-based binaries on Intel Itanium-based systems coupled with Transitive's QuickTransit dynamic binary translation products," said Kirk Skaugen, vice president of Intel's Digital Enterprise Group.