Intel To Dump Yamhill?


By Van Smith

Date: June 20, 2002

According to a report cited by the inquirer, Intel President and COO Paul Otellini announced the chipmaker will not produce a 64-bit processor similar to Advanced Micro Deviceís Hammer.  

Otellini's remarks are striking since Intel was expected to announce support for AMDís x86-64 instruction set right about now.  Who was expecting this?  A very, very major player who coordinated with the Santa Clara MPU giant to incorporate x86-64 into the P4-Prescott through the so-called Yamhill project.

According to our sources, there is little doubt that Yamhill *is* x86-64.  The question is: Why has Intel waffled on its x86-64  direction?

Relations between Intel and Microsoft were almost certainly strained by the software maker's glowing endorsements of AMD's 64-bit instruction set (and the level of commitment is expressed even more strongly inside the Redmond, Washington-based company).  This is supported by an inflamed note covertly sent to us from inside Intel which we later published after we traced the email to the chip giant.  In the letter, the mis-stepping Intel insider wildly and profanely derided the software giant for embracing x86-64.

Perhaps Intel does not want to give its archrival free publicity.  Perhaps Otelliniís remarks are calculated putative measures directed against Microsoft who has big plans for a 64-bit desktop OS (Hammer server support goes without saying).  Or perhaps Intel does not want to play its hand so early as it struggles through another IA64 launch; certainly marred by notorious execution, announcing support for x86-64 would dilute appearances of Intelís commitment to IA64.

Another possibility is that Intelís engineering efforts to include x86-64 instruction into Prescott have simply failed under the very tight timelines necessary to compete with Hammer.

The current dynamics inside Intel right now is analogous to a bomb detonation.  Intelís Andy Grove has a well established strategy that pits opposing internal camps against each other with the objective that the fittest will survive.  Instead this has led to decimation inside the company where those who shout the loudest have won among a field of dispirited rivals.  The only design team currently trusted for new ideas is in Portland.  Our sources tell us that Intel has become a political minefield controlled by a few personally ambitious zealots possessing little engineering vision.

The Hammer is simply a superior design to either IA64 or the P4.  Even though this is becoming more widely recognized, Intelís leaders fiddle their old song as the fires lap at their feet.  If AMD can execute, Intel will have to rely on its marketing and industry/media influence to maintain market share, particularly in the server space.  

Intel has already started its campaign.  The CPU-maker is keenly pressuring OEMs to drop AMD, which is largely why AMD slipped last quarter.  As we reported recently, Intelís heavy handedness might result in rebellion and government investigation as resentment grows.

With Intelís continued strengths in process technologies, the companyís decision to drop x86-64 is a blow to the industry as well as to its own fortunes.  Intel just might have been able to produce a decent Hammer clone.


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