At the MicroDesign forum this week in San Jose, Intel spokesmen detailed the companies future plans. While Intel intends to introduce the 64-bit Merced (IA-64) CPU in 1999, the release won't mark the death of the Pentium II (IA-32) line. In fact, Intel plans to produce future versions of the Pentium II for some time.
Intel will aim the Merced squarely at the server market when it first ships, while a future version of the Pentium II will focus on the mass market and workstation arenas.
In 1998, Intel will release a new version of the Pentium II code-named "Deschutes." This CPU will be smaller and faster than the current design and will ship in two versions: a Slot 1 configuration that is compatible with the current Pentium II and a Slot 2 configuration unique to Deschutes. Slot 2 motherboards will not be backwards compatible with today's Pentium II CPUs but will run at 100MHz, not 66MHz like the current version. The Slot 2 systems will also feature a faster cache. When Deschutes ships next year, the minimum speed will be 333MHz, regardless of the motherboard configuration. Eventually, Slot 2 systems will feature much higher clock speeds than the current Slot 1 systems, however, with 350, 400, and 450MHz versions expected.
Slot 2 systems will cost more than Slot 1 systems because of the faster cache and its unique manufacturing system, so Intel has committed to shipping both types of Deschutes Pentium II systems throughout 1998 and 1999. Slot 1 systems (the current design) will be featured in low-end consumer-oriented computers while the Slot 2 design will be targeted at workstations and power users.
As for Merced, the IA-64 architecture promises to finally meld the RISC and CISC worlds while adding some tremendous horsepower. Intel and Hewlett Packard have been working on the Merced since 1994.