Intel Corporation announced this week that its first-generation 64-bit microprocessor, the Itanium, will debut at a speed of 733 MHz, less than the 800 MHz the company had promised. But even that speed is a bit of a stretch, as the company is having difficulty getting higher-end versions of the chip to run reliably. Intel said Wednesday that the current test production run is averaging anywhere from 500 to 733 MHz and that the promised 800 MHz version is "a laboratory experiment right now." But Intel cautions that the clock speed of the Itanium has little to do with its overall performance when compared to its 32-bit designs, like the Pentium III.
"Really, the \[clock speed\] is the least important barometer of performance in a high-end server," Intel vice president Mike Fister Group said this week at the Intel Developer Forum, noting that the Itanium will initially be targeted at server boxes, not workstations.
The Itanium, which began life under the code-name Merced, has fallen from grace over the past twelve months, with a disappointing series of setbacks and scale-backs. Intel insiders now say that the first generation Itanium will be more of a proof-of-concept than anything and that its follow-up--code-named "McKinley"--will be the chip to watch. McKinley is now expected in late 2001, but that will probably change. As for the current generation Itanium, Intel says that it's on track to ship later this year, though it won't be available in volume until Q2 2001. Microsoft and various other OS makers say that they'll have product available for the chip when it ships