The “Pentium” family isn’t the only chip that Intel makes. For many years now they have been trying to birth a competing architecture, the Itanium – fondly referred to as Itanic.
The Itanium, IMHO, is a distillation of everything that’s been wrong with Intel’s approach to chip design in the last 10+ years; they only seem interested in end-users, i.e. the people they can sell chips to. Developer’s seem to be steerage class citizens always wanting to know the secrets of how the chip works so they can make their sucky code run faster.
For an outlier example of this, hit up the Intel Development center. Aside from the software pages being a lot slower than the hardware pages (which could be caching, except this is the developer center), the developer segments of the site are pretty hard work to interact with – the forums are awful and often feel like they’re running on a 386, and huge key sections to getting software updates etc like registrationcenter.intel.com (if it’s slow loading, count yourself lucky) aren’t linked and run like a 286… I’m not expecting red-carpet treatment, but the site just shows a distinct lack of concern, starkly contrasted against the pages furnished for folks wanting to buy a new CPU.
I said it was an outlier example: of course they’re going to devote resources where they translate to the most immediate return. But even as you are dismissing it, remember: I’d imagine that less than 1 programmer in every 1000 has reason to visit the Intel site, and those that do are probably largely paying for Intel software products which are anything but cheap…
A company that plays it’s card so close to it’s chest and always bets on being able to charge both sides of the toss and get paid for getting away with it… Is it any surprise that programmers aren’t flocking to the Itanic.
Before you call me out on wanting a free license to make money off Intel’s back… With Itanium, Intel is basically waiting on the developer community to build a compiler that will translate code into the right sequences of instructions to make their chip look good. If the code is translated badly, their chip looks bad.
Exactly like their mainstream chips; the difference is that there is a pre-existing body of software to allow them to pull shenanigans like multi-core CPUs. The lack of such a body of software for Itanium leaves it naked and exposed. C’mon, developers, hurry up and make an awesome compiler for Intel already! Of course, you’ll either have to write it in actual machine code, Intel doesn’t provide a standalone assembler and certainly not a free one, or you could buy the Intel Parallel studio for $799 and cross-compile to Itanium with it; oh, it’s a compiler: they have one, Intel just haven’t had much luck getting it to rock the Itanium.
Which is probably because programmers aren’t working in languages that are well suited to the way Intel wants to develop it’s chipset, and there’s no obvious sign that Intel is actively trying to tackle this issue. There are Intel employees actively involved in various development things, but you don’t see Intel sitting down saying “ok, we need to turn what that group of people do over there into saleable awesomeness”.
Having doubts about whether I should post this or not… I had dental surgery today and I’m not sure my head has cleared yet – apologies if this is one of my more incomprehensible posts :)