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Blue chip development fund to boost Merced

Intel last week detailed a huge sponsorship fund for its next-generation IA-64 processor family. Intel plans to have software and solutions available from early in the life of the 64bit chips.

Intel last week detailed a huge sponsorship fund for its next-generation IA-64 processor family. Intel plans to have software and solutions available from early in the life of the 64bit chips. The chips are designed to be the heart of enterprise computing over the next decade. The first, the Merced processor, is due to ship in mid-2000.

Called the Intel 64 Fund, the scheme is backed by customers as well as computer industry giants and pools about $250m (£152m) to invest in technology companies developing products and services for IA-64-based servers and workstations. Backers include Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, General Electric, Ford, Reuters and SmithKline Beecham, as well as traditional Intel partners Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, NEC and SGI.

The Intel 64 Fund will back companies producing tools and technologies for a range of areas including e-commerce, Internet infrastructure, enterprise resource planning, design automation, financial applications and services. By having 64bit applications ready to go, Intel will have broken one barrier to acceptance of its most powerful chips. The firm has been caught out before by not having optimised applications ready for its chips, notably with the first chips that used its MMX multimedia instruction set. "It's critical to have availability of solutions," said Gordon Graylish, director of marketing for Intel Architecture Europe. "People are telling us that the buyers and sellers have to co-operate more to bring out technology solutions.

Nigel Grierson, Intel director of European corporate business development, said developers will not need to have products ready for the release of Merced. Many experts believe Merced could flop as users wait for McKinley, a more capable second-generation chip due in 2001."We want developers to create 64bit applications: it's not just about Merced," said Grierson.