Advanced Micro Devices Inc. today announced it is collaborating with Microsoft to incorporate 64-bit support for the future 8th-generation processors into the Windows operating system.
Dirk Meyer, group vice president of AMD Computation Products group, said AMD "would encourage Intel to get aboard" the combined x86 and 64-bit processor market. "We would welcome Intel's support to make this an industry standard," he added.
The Microsoft support for the AMD Hammer series was essential since AMD has no OS of its own for launching the 32-bit/64-bit processors late this year.
A Microsoft x86 64-bit operating system is also expected to accelerate Intel Corp.'s own development of the reported but unannounced Yamhill processor. Like the Hammer series, Yamhill is widely reported as running existing 32-bit x86 code as well as 64-bit code in native mode. Intel's current 64-bit Itanium and McKinley processors run the firm's own special Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW) operating system, although they can emulate 32-bit code at slower throughput.
However, the AMD executive declined to discuss the abundant reports of Intel's Yamhill x86 64-bit development.
He said Opteron will be a multiprocessor version of the 32-bit/64-bit Hammer family for enterprise servers and workstations. A single processor client desktop and notebook PC chip, code named Claw Hammer to be introduced in Q4 '02, will be given an Athlon name.
He expected the Athlon client version initially will run existing 32-bit x86 programs, but with higher performance due to architectural and feature improvements of the chip. Applications developers will migrate to new 64-bit code at their own schedule, which would offer even greater improvements.
The Opteron server version run both 32-bit and 64-bit code interchangeably. A yet-to-be-announced Microsoft product in the market will support the x86 32-bit and new 64-bit operating system, he said.
Until now AMD and Intel have followed widely divergent paths to the 64-bit MPU. Intel developed a new Very Long Instruction Word (VLIW) architecture for its 64-bit Itanium and upcoming McKinley processors that use Intel's own operating system and don't run existing 32-bit x86 code in native mode.
Intel can emulate x86 programs, but at the cost of slower throughput.
By contrrast, AMD from the beginning developed its 64-bit Hammer series to run x86 programs interchangeably with new 64-bit code. AMD officials long claimed Intel's 64-bit processors required entirely new programs to be written, while their Hammer chips could run existing 32-bit programs, while developers wrote new 64-bit software at their own pace.
Early this year a raft of reports surfaced that Intel was beginning to get concerned about AMD's Hammer approach and was developing its own combined x86/64-bit processor, code named Yamhill. Intel has never acknowldged the existence of Yamhill.
AMD's welcome mat for any Intel Yamhill chip could sound disingenuous. But some analysts said that might be the quickest way AMD could have to break into the enterprise server market, if Intel were marketing the same type 32-bit/64-bit processor.
AMD Chairman W. J. (Jerry) Sanders III last week disclosed that Microsoft had been working with engineering samples of Hammer chips and instruction set code for a possible 64-bit extension of its Windows OS. The formal announcement of the 64-bit OS came on the last day of Sanders' CEO duties before the title passes to President Hector Ruiz on Thursday.
AMD will offer reference platforms for both Opteron and the Athlon client versions to customers, hoping to crack the enterprise server market that so far has remained illusive for the firm.
AMD plans to begin shipping its 8th-generation AMD Athlon processors in the fourth quarter. Shipments of the AMD Opteron processor are slated to commence in the first half of 2003.