Intel proposes dropping everything but 64-bit X86 with its X86-S proposal

In a move that had much of the internet flashing back to the innocent days of 2001 when Intel launched its Itanium architecture as a replacement for the then 32-bit x86-only architecture – before it was attacked by competing AMD’s x86_64 architecture – Intel now has issued a white paper With the associated X86-S specification seeking to validate the community’s thoughts on it essentially removing all pre-x86_64 features from x86 CPUs.

While today you can still install your copy of MSDOS 6.11 on a brand new Intel Core i7 system, with Some caveats, it cannot be denied that for most PC users, the removal of 16 and 32-bit mode will likely go unnoticed, along with the proposed removal of loops 1 and 2, as well as a host of other low-level (I/O) features. Instead of the boot process going from 16-bit real mode to protected mode, and from 32 to 64-bit mode, the system will boot directly into the 64-bit mode that Intel is referring to and is what everyone else is using anyway.

Where things get a little hazy is that you can’t just install and boot existing 64-bit operating systems in a theoretical X86-S machine, as they have no concept of this new boot procedure, or other dropped low-level features. This is the place itanium The comparison seems more apt, as Intel’s attempt was a clean cut with its x86 legacy, only for everything to do with the concept (VLIW) and “legacy software” support to go terribly wrong.

Although the X86-S seems less ambitious than the Itanium, it will be interesting to hear AMD’s thoughts on the matter.

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