In a surprising move given the amount of time involved, Intel announced this week that it was delaying the introduction of its upcoming 64-bit "Merced" IA-64 microprocessor from mid-1999 to mid-2000 because of "process management issues". That could be Intel-speak for technical problems, but the company began warning hardware manufacturers of the delay so that they could plan ahead. Picking up the slack for Merced will be Intel's last 32-bit chipsets, code-named "Willamette" and "Tanner". Tanner is particularly interesting because it is a 32-bit processor that fits into Merced's so-called "Slot M" motherboard slot. The Tanner is expected to eventually surpass and replace the Pentium II Xeon family, which goes on sale this summer.

One has to wonder what affect this delay will have on software companies looking to target the new chip. Microsoft is hard at work on a 64-bit version of Windows NT 5.0, for example, but that OS' delays are legendary anyway. Digital (Digital UNIX), Sun (Solaris for Merced), and other companies are all working on Merced operating systems and applications as well