NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Intel, the top supplier of computer processors, said Tuesday that the first new systems built using its 64-bit "Itanium" processors should be available from several manufacturers starting next month.|
Dell Computer already has introduced an Itanium-based workstation. The company said Tuesday its Dell Precision Workstation 730 is currently available to U.S. customers who plan on shifting to a 64-bit computing architecture.
Several other manufacturers also have said they plan to introduce Itanium-based servers and workstations as well, including Hewlett-Packard, which is expected to make its HP 9000 Superdome server available with the new processors.
The Itanium chip represents a big bet for Intel (INTC: down $1.10 to $28.00, Research, Estimates), which historically has been the dominant supplier of microprocessors for personal computers. With the Itanium chips, which are built on the company's IA-64 architecture which it co-developed with HP, Intel is aiming to extend its franchise into the market for next-generation 64-bit processors for high-end workstations and servers.
Most of today's microprocessors are "32-bit," which means they process data 32 bits at a time. It also refers to the size of the "pointer," which determines how much data the processor can address directly. Current 32-bit processors can address 4 gigabytes of data. The industry has been gradually moving toward a 64-bit architecture, which multiplies the amount of data the processor can access by four billion.
Intel's Itanium chips have been years in the making, and the project was marked by several delays. Intel has not said specifically how much it has invested in its 64-bit efforts, but analysts' estimates run as high as $2 billion.
But just as its dominance in the PC processor market has been challenged lately, so too are its efforts in the 64-bit arena.
Advanced Micro Devices (AMD: down $2.28 to $29.66, Research, Estimates) – whose "Athlon" and "Duron" PC processors have become an increasing competitive threat to Intel's "Pentium" line – has developed its own 64-bit architecture which it is pitting against IA-64 as the standard for the next-generation of computing.
Last week, upstart chipmaker Transmeta (TMTA: down $1.17 to $13.32, Research, Estimates) became the first licensee of AMD's 64-bit architecture, which it called "x86-64."
Shares of Intel were trading more than 3.7 percent lower on Nasdaq amid a broad downturn in semiconductor stocks which dragged the Philadelphia Stock Exchange's semiconductor index 31.03 points lower to 623.61, a 4.7 percent decline on the day.