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Intel Quietly Ships 64-Bit Prescott

Intel has quietly released a Pentium 4 Prescott processor equipped with 64-bit instruction-set extensions. The news came to light as an unheralded part of IBM's rollout of a new family of 64-bit servers.

Most of the IBM servers are eServer xSeries systems equipped with Intel's better-known 64-bit Xeon processor, which was unveiled at the end of June. However, IBM also announced that it has begun shipping a BladeCenter blade server that's equipped with the heretofore undisclosed 64-bit Prescott.

The 64-bit Intel Xeon -- formerly code-named Nancona -- is a hybrid 32/64 bit CPU, which can run both 32- and 64-bit software via a set of 64-bit instruction-set extensions. The 64-bit version of Prescott, which had only been hinted at previously, was expected to be a desktop chip. Now, Intel says it's positioned as a server part for OEMs.

The confusing product positioning is becoming a hallmark of the so-called hybrid arena. AMD kicked off the categorgy a little more than a year ago when it debuted its AMD64 architecture and companion extensions. These are implemented in AMD's Opteron server and Athlon desktop processors. Intel's extensions, which it first used in the Xeon and are called EM64T, are compatible with AMD's extensions.

Until this announcement by IBM, it hadn't been clear whether Intel would move out its 64-bit extensions beyond Xeon to its Pentium processors.

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