Merced delayed until mid-2000

Slip not attributed to "major problems"

By James Niccolai

June  1998
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San Francisco (May 29, 1998) -- Intel Corp. said today it will delay the release of its 64-bit Merced processor by six months. The chip, designed for use in powerful workstations and servers, is now slated for release in mid-2000, Intel said.

Intel informed its customers of the revised release date after a review of the progress of the chip's development showed that testing procedures will take longer than expected, spokesman Howard High said.

One analyst said he grilled the company over the delay and concluded there are probably no major problems with the chip's development.

"It appears the issue is not that a huge technical problem jumped out on the road in front of them, but that they underestimated how long the project would take," said Nathan Brookwood, a principal analyst at Dataquest Inc. "They maintain it is a problem with the original plan and not with the execution."

The news should send a signal to corporate users to stop holding their breath for the new technology, to go ahead and deploy systems based on technologies available today, analyst firm Zona Research Inc. said in a statement.

Dozens of hardware, operating system, and software vendors have pledged support publicly for the new architecture, and the delay is likely to have a ripple effect for companies who had planned to time the release of their products with that of Merced.

Microsoft Corp., for example, planned to roll out a 64-bit version of Windows along with Merced. Sun Microsystems Inc., the Santa Cruz Operation Inc., and Digital Equipment Corp. all will have to push back release dates for their 64-bit Merced operating systems also.

In particular the delay is bad news for Hewlett-Packard Co., which is co-designing the chip with Intel and plans to make the IA-64 architecture the centerpiece of its enterprise strategy, Zona said.

Merced's delay will likely provide some breathing space for those vendors, predicted Dataquest's Brookwood and Zona.

"If you're one of the guys at whom Intel is aiming their gun then every extra minute is another sale, another few thousand dollars," Brookwood said. "If you're DEC, or a guy selling an Alpha system, then this is a six-month grace."

Intel will release various improved 32-bit processors in the interim, but the company denied press reports that it plans to release additional high-end 32-bit designs to substitute for Merced's delay.

Intel stressed that the design of the chip's microarchitecture is complete, and said the development of the chip is going well.

--James Niccolai is a correspondent with the the IDG News Service


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