As expected, Intel has announced it will extend the x86 instruction set to 64-bits during the Spring Intel Developer Forum - and the company that brought the technology to the market first is delighted.
Advanced Micro Devices' (AMD's) Opteron processor was the first chip to offer users the possibility of running their 32-bit x86 applications on a server that could also run 64-bit applications as those users migrated to the technology.
For a long time, Intel downplayed the need for that technology, but its decision to release a product at this time was a significant validation for AMD's approach, AMD and industry analysts said.
"This adds credibility to what we've been doing," a marketing manager at AMD, John Morris, said. "We've shown with our partners that there is a legitimacy around where AMD is going," he said.
Because Intel was now on board, AMD would probably see faster development of applications for the technology, principal analyst with Insight 64, Nathan Brookwood, said.
Server customers would also benefit from the removal of any confusion about plans for 64-bit technology, Brookwood said.
"Customers will have the opportunity to run their applications or benchmarks on both platforms and decide based on the merits of the platforms," he said.
This was rather than trying to filter the marketing rhetoric from both sides, he said.
AMD has received praise for the 32-bit performance of Opteron, but the industry will have to wait and see if that stands up against the enhancements Intel is making to Nocona, the next generation of its Xeon processor.
Nocona will be Intel's first chip to come with 64-bit extensions and will also feature improvements such as support for fast Double Data Rate (DDR2) memory and the PCI Express interconnect standard.
Both AMD and Intel were extending the 32-bit instruction set by adding larger registers to Opteron and Nocona, among other things, an analyst with Illuminata, Gordon Haff, said.
Registers are temporary holding places for data as it flows through a processor.
Several of the registers were specified as general-purpose, but each company had some leeway to add registers that favoured certain types of applications, such as multimedia, Haff said. This meanr each chip would likely outperform its rival on some tasks, but not others, he said.
The architectural differences would allow AMD to differentiate Opteron from Nocona, Morris said.
Intel has greater marketing and manufacturing resources than AMD, but if AMD can communicate the differences between the two chips it can avoid the Intel steamroller, he said.
The first company to develop a technology is not always the one that wins out in the end, as the gravestones of many dot-com companies attest. But AMD would not have been able to mount a credible threat to Intel in the server market unless it was first to market with 64-bit extensions, Brookwood said.
"If they hadn't been first, they wouldn't have even gotten into the market," Brookwood said.
It would have been much harder for AMD to change its image from a PC enthusiast supplier to an enterprise vendor if it was following Intel's path rather than selling something new, he said.