12/96 News: 64-Bit Windows Is Coming
By Jim Forbes
So you've got Windows running everywhere-NT on the network, Win95 on the desktop and notebook and soon, perhaps, Windows CE on the personal digital assistant. Well, brace yourself: There's more Windows on the way.
This fall, Microsoft quietly revealed that it is developing yet another version, this one in tandem with Intel. The product will also be called Windows NT, but it is expected to run on a new generation of CPUs with more raw processing power-possibly more than some mainframes.
The new NT may be at least two iterations away, according to Microsoft insiders who have begun working on the product. Intel and Hewlett-Packard are also involved in the development.
Plans for the new Windows were disclosed this fall by Microsoft vice president Paul Mauritz, who said it will be quite different from Windows NT 4.0, which shipped in August. In addition to a revamped interface, it is designed to run in the native mode of the next-generation, multimember microprocessor family.
Usually referred to as P7-after the Pentium (P5) and Pentium Pro (P6)-one of the new processors in the family is code-named Merced. A key feature is its 64-bit native word length; NT 4.0 is built around the Win32 API.
While no one will say much on the record, Intel did confirm that Merced is one member of the P7 series, which is based on the IA-64 microarchitecture developed jointly by HP and Intel. Although HP will market some iterations of the P7, only Intel will sell the 64-bit model developed under the Merced name. Set to debut in 1998, it will be used in high-end workstations and servers.
Sources say Merced's clock speed could begin at 250MHz. It is also likely to have up to 8 million transistors (the Pentium has 3.3 million and the Pentium Pro has 5.5 million). The new processor could dissipate about 40 watts, enough to make cooling systems that use it a high priority.
Analysts say the new technologies will lure suppliers of databases and high-end workstations. The reason: Power. Windows is currently on the hand-held, notebook, desktop and server. A 64-bit version could extend its reach, bridging the gap between the desktop and the minicomputer.