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Intel

Intel Potentially Reverse-Engineered AMD64 324

icypyr0 writes "Tom Halfhill, an analyst for In-Stat/MDR claims that due to similiarities in the instruction sets of AMD64 chips and the new 64-bit extensions for Intel Xeons, it is clear that Intel reverse-engineered the AMD64. However, due to the fact that the new Xeon is not an exact copy of the AMD64's microarchitecture, Intel has not broken the law. This very tactic has actually been used by firms such as AMD in the past to catch up to Intel."
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Intel Potentially Reverse-Engineered AMD64

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  • by norculf ( 146473 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:28PM (#8832281) Journal
    So reverse engineering is not a problem in this case. In fact, it's not unlikely that AMD simply handed them the documentation.
    • by athakur999 ( 44340 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:33PM (#8832330) Journal
      Barring that, Intel could have simply browsed to AMD's web page and downloaded it [amd.com] themselves.

      In Slashdot Utopia we could mark this article as "-1, Yellow Journalism".

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Or maybe, just maybe, Intel simply downloaded the tech docs off AMDs website..

      http://www.amd.com/us-en/Processors/TechnicalResou rces/0,,30_182_739,00.html [amd.com]

      Whoa..
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:38PM (#8832377)
      The real crime isn't the reverse engineering. Its that both intel and AMD are still supporting the x86 architecture. x86 is like a dog that should have been put down a long time ago. I remember 10 years back looking at VAX architeture and being amazed that intel would continue without multi-purpose registers. It truly is a pain to do any assembly programming on the x86. The only excuse that intel had to continue with the x86 was that optimizing compilers weren't good enough for them to reimplement a RISC processor. The times have changed, and so should their microprocessor designs.
      • by FatRatBastard ( 7583 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @05:06PM (#8832545) Homepage
        {cough cough cough} Itanium. And look how well that turned out.

        There are options out there my friend (Power, Sparc, ARM... I happen to adore my power based macs). Its not like anyone is shoving the X86 arch. down our throat. Intel, in fact, has been trying to shove the good ship Itanic down the high end's throat and the high end told him to piss off. Face facts, technology doesn't always trump economics. Get over it (and go buy a Mac if you hate the x86 so much).
        • The problem is that all windows apps which people take for granted as working since 1994 would break unless software (slow) or hardware (bloat) emulation were integrated into the new systems. Windows could be recompiled by MS, but what about Jim the Tech's miricle tool made in '96 and unsupported ever since?
      • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @05:38PM (#8832714)
        It truly is a pain to do any assembly programming on the x86.

        So?

        The 99.9% of people writing apps in any langauge as abstract as C or higher don't have to worry about the CPU architecture. If it compiles and runs these languages at a price/performance ratio favorable to other CPUs, then nobody sould have a problem with it.

        The true runtime architecture of an X86 CPU (and most RISC chips as well) has been mostly unfathomable to humans since the Pentium Pro came out. The X86 instruction set is just a backwards-compatible abstraction that is used to logically specify what needs to be done. The chip transforms these instructions to something completely different at runtime. For example, X86 chips already do have dozens of the "multi-purpose" registers you're pining for; you just don't see them at the visible instruction set level. When you do "assembly programming" on a modern CPU, you're not much closer to the real hardware than you are writing in C.

      • Two words: backwards compatibility. Nobody wants a processor that is not backwards compatible with current software, and nobody except OS programmers really cares what's inside the chip. If there was an actual demand for a better architecture, people would have switched to Alpha or PPC a long time ago.
      • by John Courtland ( 585609 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @06:20PM (#8833063)
        The x86-64 has 16 64-bit GP registers now. The instruction set isn't so bad if you get down to the microcode anyhow, most common instructions (MOV, ADD, INC, DEC) are executed in 1-2 clocks, and have since the 486. Yes there is a latency to decode the instructions but that's what pipelining is for.
      • Please tell me WHAT is wrong with x86? Ok, some people don't like programming assembly for it, others love it (as one x86 assembly fan put it: "there's a perfect instruction to do exactly what you want no matter what it is"). Besides which assembly programming for high-end microprocessors really doesn't make much sense anymore except in very odd situations.

        No multi-purpose registers? x86-64 has 16 general purpose registers and 16 double-precision floating point registers (the latter capable of holding 2
      • x86 is like a dog that should have been put down a long time ago.

        Except that these dogs outperform their contemporary RISC competition.

        It truly is a pain to do any assembly programming on the x86.

        Evidenced by the volume of x86 ASM source, as well as like a million assemblers that are available for it? x86 ASM has its warts but it has some unusual advantages as well (complex addressing, lock primitives, free implicit flag calculations, etc) RISC and VLIW/EPIC have not been convincing alternatives to x8

    • by Homology ( 639438 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:49PM (#8832440)
      So reverse engineering is not a problem in this case. In fact, it's not unlikely that AMD simply handed them the documentation.

      Security wise, it is bad that Intel decided not to copy the NX (No Excute on pages) part as well.The NX is not an AMD invention, of course, but it's very nice that they included it. And who uses this? OpenBSD developers was not very happy with the Intel decision : they actually recommend buying AMD before Intel.

    • Looks like... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Pollux ( 102520 ) <{speter} {at} {tedata.net.eg}> on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:57PM (#8832494) Journal
      Intel pulled an AMD.

      So reverse engineering is not a problem in this case. In fact, it's not unlikely that AMD simply handed them the documentation.

      But reverse engineering isn't "Handing them the document," as you put it. They have the right to produce a chip which uses the same instruction set (x86-64) within their chip, but they have to find a way to build it themselves...unless they reverse engineer the design of the chip itself...happens all the time...Z80 ring a bell? AMD did the exact same thing with the Intel 286, 386, and 486...took Intel's chip and reversed the design...until they finally came out with their own design of the 5x86 architecture, the K5. The K5 still used the x86 instruction set, but executed it with their own engineered design. So, maybe this is a good sign of Intel now being the follower instead of the leader.

      • Re:Looks like... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by BitchKapoor ( 732880 )
        But AMD's 286, 386, and possibly 486 were based on designs licensed from Intel. I believe at least some versions of the 286 were microarchitecturally identical (AMD as a second source of parts for Intel).
      • Re:Looks like... (Score:5, Informative)

        by isdnip ( 49656 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @05:50PM (#8832833)
        Just to be more specific about the history...

        Intel licensed AMD to produce their designs, as a second source, up through the 80286. Intel masks and all. By the time the 386 came out, Intel didn't need AMD any more (they had multiple fabs and a good enough reputation, plus a lock on PC-compatible chips). So they told AMD that the agreement didn't apply any more. I don't remember if AMD won or lost on the 80386. But it certainly didn't last until the 486. So AMD did their own design, without any help from Intel. The court did note that a number could not be trademarked. It was thus never the "80486"; I think "i486" was a trademark, not that anybody cared, and that's why the next Intel chip was "Pentium".

        AMD's "586"-class chip, the K5, was a dog. They then bought NexGen and adapted its RISC-innard design to the K6, which rocked, and fit a Pentium socket. Intel put tighter patents on the PII socket so AMD built the Athlon on DEC's Alpha socket electrical design.

        Intel didn't have to change the ISA (drop the NX, for instance) in order to be legal. Either they goofed, or they sabotaged their own 64-bit x86 upgrade (as others here have suggested) in order to create a niche for the Itanic.
        • Re:Looks like... (Score:3, Informative)

          I don't remember if AMD won or lost on the 80386. But it certainly didn't last until the 486.

          What lasted until the 486 was the legal battle. AMD did end up losing but not until after they had reverse engineered Intel's 486. AMD later did their own version of the 486. The first version of AMD's 486 just changed the microcode, enough to make it a "legal copy" so to speak. Later they designed an entirely new chip called the 5x86 that offered decent performanced compared to Intel's early Pentiums but at

      • Re:Looks like... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Webmonger ( 24302 )
        Reverse engineering is harder than working from published specs. It is establishing specs from the actual chip, then building it themselves.

        AFAICT, the Intel stuff is no more "reverse engineered" from AMD64 than Linux is "reverse engineered" from Unix. It's simply another implementation of the spec.
    • Hollywood actor Ben Affleck has been witnessed cashing a multi million dollar paycheck around the time of the chip's release. Film at 11.
    • So reverse engineering is not a problem in this case. In fact, it's not unlikely that AMD simply handed them the documentation.

      Reverse engineering is NEVER a problem. The very concept that it MIGHT be is recent - and driven by propaganda from the software industry.

      Historically, industries have reverse engineered nearly everything: Cars, looms, what have you. (Auto compaines, for instance, have entire DEPARTMENTS to disassemble and reverse-engineer their competitors' products.)

      You can patent an idea -
  • Good! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) <MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com> on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:28PM (#8832282) Homepage
    Good, because compatibility is everything.
  • So... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rick Zeman ( 15628 )
    ...in other words this isn't news.
  • umm yeah? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by toast0 ( 63707 ) <slashdotinducedspam@enslaves.us> on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:29PM (#8832295) Homepage
    I haven't read the article (this is /.), but i would have expected they reverse engineered, or read the documentation for AMD64 to implement their x86-64 cause it's apparently very nearly the same ISA.

    Intel and AMD have a broad patent cross licensing agreement, so it's not a big deal.
  • by LordK3nn3th ( 715352 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:30PM (#8832297)
    ...Isn't it true that they left out the NX (no-execute?) bit, thus causing some compatibility issues?
  • So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cjthompson ( 644047 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:30PM (#8832302)
    I don't get it. If they all do it, then this is a bit of a 'none story' right?
  • Copy-Cat. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:31PM (#8832308)
    "This very tactic has actually been used by firms such as AMD in the past to catch up to Intel."

    Of course. Although don't forget cross-licensing deals as well e.g. Pentium.

    The fact that Intel went to all this work simply shows that AMD made the better decision with it's architecture.
  • by mentin ( 202456 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:31PM (#8832309)
    In my vocabulary "to reverse engineer" means to find out something internal, hidden and protected. The article talks about "reverse engineering AMD instruction set", which is obviously public. This is called "copying", and has nothing to do with "reverse engineering"
    • It's a little more complicated then that. I used to write alot of asm code back when people still did that. And let me say this:

      It's very rare that the instruction set is the end of the story. There's alot of "gray area" that may or may not be documented and tons of undocumented instructions -- that was always the shtick with Intel. These gray areas need to be compatible as well. Hopefully AMD did things more straightforward.

      Although I can't believe they wouldn't provide documentation to Intel, th

  • License if Free (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bstadil ( 7110 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:32PM (#8832314) Homepage
    [Sarcasm]Yes this would be real clever on Intel's part. Much smarter than taking out a free license.

    I have not read the license but maybe deliberately breaking the compatibility may not be an option, and god forbid having your "innovations" stymied. [/sarcasm]

  • Cross-licensing (Score:5, Informative)

    by l33t-gu3lph1t3 ( 567059 ) <arch_angel16@@@hotmail...com> on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:32PM (#8832316) Homepage
    Intel has cross-licensed X86 do death. I believe the terms of the deal state that Anyone can use x86, but any improvements they do to it are free for Intel to incorporate.
  • AMD passes Intel. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:32PM (#8832319)
    The big story here isn't that Intel has done anything "wrong", but they've done something that they haven't done in the past... something that AMD used to do when they were trailing behind Intel.

    Now the shoe's on the other foot. AMD has taken one of the signs that used to say Intel was the market leader.
  • by AtariAmarok ( 451306 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:33PM (#8832325)
    AMD will have the last laugh here. Turns out they embedded a Pink Floyd album in the code of AMD64 (a fair-use copy, as AMD had previously purchased the album). When Intel copied the code and put it in their chip, it was all AMD needed for a little call to the RIAA to pay a visit to Intel's house....
  • by Sebastopol ( 189276 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:35PM (#8832349) Homepage
    This is ahrdly reverse engineering. This is Intel building an ISA to a specification laid down by AMD. Just like Transmeta executing IA-32 code, or like Lindows looking like windows.

    AMD didn't even have silicon before Intel started building 'yamhill', so by definition of the term, it is impossible for Intel to have reverse engineered.

  • by Wolfier ( 94144 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:36PM (#8832357)
    Intel employee A: Here's the spec AMD gives us. Use it.

    Intel employee B: Yee Hah!! I've almost figured out how they do this last opcode!

    Intel employee A: Yeah, it's on page 183 of this. Read it.

    Intel employee B: Leave me alone!! Specifications are for weenies! I'll reverse engineer it. You can keep the specs, thanks.
  • by Tuckdogg ( 550113 ) <jswhite.atty@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:38PM (#8832369) Homepage Journal
    I've seen some people suggest that it was actually a "copy" of something AMD already made public, and not really a true attempt at reverse engineering. But even if it was reverse engineering, so what? Of course they haven't broken any laws! There's nothing wrong with reverse engineering. How many times has /. come out to defend reverse engineering (DeCSS, PlayFair, bleem!, Connectix's Virtual Game Station)?

    If the little guys can do it, the big guys can do it, too. No double standards, please.
    • by infernow ( 529374 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @05:50PM (#8832840) Homepage
      I don't think this is a matter of double standards. The article even says that there's no shame in what Intel has done:
      "There's no shame in it," Halfhill said of the reverse-engineering. "AMD has reverse-engineered everything Intel has done for years."
      Intel may or may not have copied, reverse-engineered, or otherwise duplicated the AMD spec. That doesn't matter. What does matter is that it is Intel who is having to catch up to AMD, rather than the other way around.
  • by bigberk ( 547360 ) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:40PM (#8832385)
    Half of Engineering is reverse-engineering. And it's not always a bad thing.
  • that's one hell of an accusation..
  • IANAPCU (PC user), but maybe they're doing this for compatibility?

    Think about it. PCs are almost struggling for good 64-bit compatibility. Chances are that they got a clue and decided to do what Apple-hardware did with PowerPC many many years ago.

    Remember, Motorola & IBM both had PowerPC standards. Why shouldn't Intel & AMD learn how to get along as well?
  • by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:43PM (#8832408) Homepage Journal
    If they just copied the instruction set to be compatible, then created their own microcode to implement the code, how is that really considered 're-engineering' ?

    Now if they tried to duplicate the internals as well, id give you that it would be in that case..

    But sounds like Intel did nothing more then clone the functionality of a black box, using their own techniques.

    Or perhaps I'm just nitpicking on terminology..

    • Also, the lack, or inclusion, of LAHF and SAHF being a "smoking gun" seems to be an overly strong conclusion. LAHF and SAHF were included in the 8086 to ease transition from 8080 code and as such, have been somewhat arcane. Although they have their uses, dropping them has been probably been frequently considered over the years.
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:46PM (#8832423)
    Sure, Intel is known, like Microsoft, to do underhanded things, but these are all gray areas... marketing tactics, etc. But when it comes to a clear-cut IP thing like this, there's no way they're going to want to put themselves at risk like this.

    Besides: (1) Intel and AMD have all sorts of cross-licensing things in place, and (2) there are only so many ways to extend a 32-bit arch to 64-bit.

    Intel's "IA32e" is fundamentally an Intel design, with 64-bit extensions. I think IA32e is basically a Prescott (or later) core. Intel and AMD go about their CISC-front-end-to-RISC-core in quite different ways with quite different results in terms of efficiency, etc.

    So, the bottom line is that I'm sure, given that they do execute the same instruction set, that there will be MANY similarities, but they will be either accidental or necessary similarities.
  • by Limburgher ( 523006 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:46PM (#8832425) Homepage Journal
    Next week: GNU/Assembler. . .
  • Legal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by minion ( 162631 )
    To quote from the article: While exactly copying a processor's microarchitecture would be illegal, creating a compatible product through the use of an original "clean room" design is legally protected.

    So, if what Halfhill says is true, how did Intel make it illegal for VIA to make a chipset for the P4? How did Intel prevent AMD from making chips that would fit in Socket 370 and Slot 1? That was the reason for the "socket wars" - to prevent AMD from making compatible products.

    Thats complete BS if Int
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Does that mean that what each AMD64 machine instruction does is not fully specified? How are we supposed to program for the AMD64 then, by using only the machine instructions that are clearly explained? Intel just missed an opportunity to invent a new behavior for the badly-explained instructions, publish a "complete instruction set handbook" for the AMD64, which people will use because AMD's handbook is unclear/incomplete, and have everyone wonder why their "AMD64" code only works on Intel.
  • by Lface ( 23903 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:52PM (#8832463) Homepage
    Given that the instruction sets are compatible, you don't need to do much investigation to figure out that they have looked at AMD's x86-64.

    Apparently, there is still some confusion about whether the instructions sets are compatible or not, and people such as Linus has been critisizing [gmane.org] Intel for trying to hide the fact that they are indeed compatible by giving the instruction set another name.

    When it comes to licensing of technology, AMD and Intel has had cross-licensing agreements since the seventies, and there has been roumors for a long time [theinquirer.net] that these has included x86-64.
  • by ReverendLoki ( 663861 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:54PM (#8832472)
    Yes, reverse Engineering is the norm, happens all the time, blah blah.... The real story here is that, for a change, Intel did it to AMD instead of the other way around. Or, as the article puts it, "Intel's decision, however, clearly places AMD in the role of market leader. " Maybe a tad too grandiose of a statement, but it's at least in the same ball park.
  • by NTmatter ( 589153 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @04:56PM (#8832485) Homepage
    It looks like Intel might be pulling the same trick as MS did on Java. By not implementing two instructions (LAHF and SAHF) might be trying to break compatibility ever so slightly. The question is whether they'll be able to fragment the market as well as Microsoft did.

    I suspect that they won't be able to, as compatibility and optimization lies a mere recompile away. However, if they were going to be 100% binary compatible, the results would be most interesting. Just imagine the carnage from head-to-head competition between Intel and AMD. While they have competed in the past, they have always had slightly different offerings. Their different feature sets were needed by different people. If these were identical, then AMD and Intel would be on the same battleground with the same featureset.

    It would be an interesting battle indeed. AMD's low cost and efficiency (and overclockability) versus Intel's brute-force and high-speed (and marketing). I suppose we'll have to wait for the next round for anything along those lines though.
    • LAHFing out loud (Score:3, Informative)

      by XNormal ( 8617 )
      Do you know what these two instructions are? They are for compatibility between the 8086 and the 8-bit 8085 processor. They load and store the flags into AH in the same bit positions as the 8085 so that SAHF+PUSH AX has the same format as pushing the Accumulator/Flags pair onto the stack on the 8085. Since the 8085 is an extension of the 8080 and 8008 architectures it makes these instructions compatible with the flags register format of the first 8 bit processor ever produced!

      There were actually tools to
  • by mwarps ( 2650 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @05:09PM (#8832561) Journal
    Completely irresponsible and mindless work here.

    This is truly a sad, sad state of affairs when stupid, unresearched yellow journalism like this makes the front page of Slashdot. We have known for *years* about the cross licensing of patents between AMD and Intel. It's been reported ON THIS SITE.

    I normally don't like to flame the editors, but this is nearly unforgivable.

    Goodbye Karma.
  • Goodbye Intel... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Sunday April 11, 2004 @05:10PM (#8832571) Homepage
    The whole thing is very interesting. The first thing to note is that Intel has been doing this since the very start. The proof? According to a document that made all the tech sites a few weeks ago (don't want to dig it up) if you remove the stuff Intel added to the IA-32e over AMD-64 (you know, SSE3 and such) the architectures are IDENTICLE except for two instructions. Those two instructions happen to be the exact same two that were not in the first draft of the AMD-64 architecture and were added later. That would be one MAJOR coincidence. I doubt that anyone is suprised though.

    As for Intel's processor, I haven't heard good things. I saw an article on either The Register or The Inquirer that pointed to an article in c't [heise.de] about the Noncona [heise.de] (English [google.com] thanks to Google) that Noncona is in trouble. According to the article in c't, a beta tester described the performance of the chip succintly: "It sucks." The article also states that HP has decided to only use Opteron chips, so perhaps it knows this fact too. The article doesn't say why (although it speculates that it's only emulating parts of the 64 bit instruction set). The article also has some info on some other things.

    All in all, after all their foot dragging, I've lost interest in Intel. I'm worried that it won't perform as well as an Opteron. I'm worried it will be a blast furnace (Opteron's aren't cool by any means, but they look only luke-warm compared to Presshot). And I have read speculation (which I believe) that Intel is going to move to an integrated memory controller (like the Opteron) for performance reasons. Let's not forget that Intel is pushing a whole new form factor (BTX) just to help controll heat (or at least that seems to be it's major contribution to the world). AMD used to look like a "me too" company to me, making knockoffs. But over time (starting with the Athlon) I've been watching them and I no longer see them as an "also ran", they seem to be the REAL innovators these days.

    AMD vs. Intel:

    • Intel says Rambus. AMD says DDR. The industry uses DDR.
    • Intel says "no one needs 64-bits". AMD says "here, have 64-bits". People buy AMD, so Intel says "wait for me!"
    • Intel makes MMX, AMD makes 3DNow! and it spanks MMX, so Intel has to make SSE.
    • Intel says "faster processors (ghz) are faster, performance ratings confuse people". AMD says "faster processors (ghz) aren't always faster, performance ratings help people see past speeds". AMD's chips are faster than Intel's and Intel has to admit it won't keep pumping up clockspeeds. Result? Intel says "faster processors (ghz) aren't always faster, performance ratings help people see past speeds".
    • AMD released the Opteron and Athlon 64 which races past the P4. Intel has to release the P4 Emergency Edition just to stay competitive at the top end. How did they improve the processor? They didn't, they just added cache. They're 3ghz processor needs extra cache to keep up with a 2ghz one from their compeditor that runs cooler and has 64-bits.

    There are tons more. I saw an article on it the other day. Intel is not on sure footing, if you ask me. Between the problems above, the trend to sub $500 computers, and just AMDs gaining reputation, Intel could be in trouble. It has recently admitted that it can't continue to use the P4 and is going to build it's future chips off of it's mobile chip because they can't keep speeding up the P4, it's not worth it.

    • Re:Goodbye Intel... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Mashiki ( 184564 )
      Damn I'm glad you posted that. I was going to actually write something very close to the same. My next builds will all be AMD for various reasons listed here(and not), but Intel has been borking along for far too long.

      Intel has become the underdog either refusing to look and devlop or thinking that 'name' will build and hold them marketshare. GM, Ford and Chrysler thought the same way back in the early 80's and it nearly killed all three. It may well kill Intel off if they don't smarten up.
    • Re:Goodbye Intel... (Score:4, Informative)

      by ImpTech ( 549794 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @07:13PM (#8833494)
      Lots of good points there... AMD has been doing very well lately, though honestly I think they've been doing most of it by *not* trying to innovate, and just trying to do what makes the most sense. Example: Athlons from tbird through barton are all pretty much the same, just with die shrinks, cache increases, and bus/multiplier differences. In that period Intel's put out what, 3 significantly different P4 cores, and invalidated a couple of socket types. I think that lack of extra worthless effort is a big part of what keeps Athlons so inexpensive, and yet AMD has still provided good performance just doing the conventional things.

      However, where I disagree with your assessment is about the dropping of the P4 architecture, going with a Pentium M derivative. I think thats the best move Intel can make at this time, and that while it might be a bit confusing to consumers, they're going to develop some very good chips as a result. I've always felt that the P4 was a stupid design to begin with, that only stayed competitive through hacks and ingenuity on the part of Intel's engineers. Now that they're going back to a good architecture, we could very well see another dynasty like the P6 core presided over.
  • if only (Score:5, Funny)

    by Cynikal ( 513328 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @05:29PM (#8832663) Homepage
    if only AMD had been able to sneak in a few cyrix chips as their new easier-to-reverse-engineer edition 64bit chips....

  • Quite true indeed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2004 @05:42PM (#8832759)
    While working at Intel in 2000-2001 it was well known that there was a "finders fee" of $5,000 for each 'hammer' you could provide the company with. In fact there was even a spooky looking site (complete with spy vs spy logo) on our intranet listing what all the finders fees were for various 'items' under development by our competitors.

    needless to say I was a little surprised when I saw this...but not to surprised.
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @06:14PM (#8833020)
    While exactly copying a processor's microarchitecture would be illegal, creating a compatible product through the use of an original "clean room" design is legally protected.

    Gee, can I do this with music, and then the RIAA can't touch me?

  • by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Sunday April 11, 2004 @07:41PM (#8833695) Homepage Journal
    it is clear that Intel reverse-engineered the AMD64.
    How is Mr. Halfhill able to conclude that, when Intel could just as easily have simply read the x86-64 documentation which was released more than two years before Intel announced their version? His only evidence is that Intel left out two instructions which were not in the early AMD documentation; that actually suggests Intel simply used the AMD documentation, and did no reverse-engineering at all.

    Or perhaps Mr. Halfhill is confused about what the term "reverse-engineering" means. Specifically, it is reconstructing specifications and design information from a finished product. Designing a new, compatible product from published documentation is not in any sense reverse engineering.

    However, due to the fact that the new Xeon is not an exact copy of the AMD64's microarchitecture, Intel has not broken the law.
    It's not clear that Intel would have broken the law even if they HAD made an exact copy of AMD's microarchitecture.

    Microarchitecture per se is not protected by law, though aspects of it could be patented. But Intel and AMD have patent cross-licenses, to that is not an issue. A specific mask layout may be protected by copyright law, but it's quite possible to copy microarchitecture without copying mask layout.

    It is also possible that AMD may have provided the x86-64 architecture documentation to Intel under NDA well before the public release. The very name, "x86-64", was suprisingly vendor-neutral. I suspect that AMD only renamed it to AMD64 after they believed they had been unsuccessful at convincing Intel to produce compatible processors. Intel denied for years that they would offer a 64-bit extension of any kind for the x86, despite the widespread rumors to the contrary.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 11, 2004 @10:26PM (#8834795)
    sorry for posting as Anonymous.
    When AMD only started to loudly talk about x86-64, my friend - u-code designer - told me in a private conversation that "...the management is worried, I was asked to look into the possibility of implementing u-code extensions of those new instructions. I'll look at their public specs today. After all, there's not much else to be changed except the u-code".
    I guess he did - but we never spoke about that later.
    The point is:
    1. Intel was preparing an answer to x86-64 as early as AMD started to talk about it.
    2. Intel was quite understandingly taking a wait-and-see approach to that - no one would pull the plug on an already available product, no matter how well it's selling, in favour of competitor's hype. They only started taking real marketing steps when it was obvious that x86-64 is getting accepted and didn't want to lose this market completely.
    3. The implementation is 100% in-house using only AMDs public specs. The uArch was ready before Athlon64 launch, for just in case, and they started marketing it as early as it was clearly no-other-choice situation. C'mon, give Intel some credit - why steal from AMD if there's plenty of in-house talent available? They even made Merced work (after only 8 years :-)).
  • I wonder if.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MWales ( 686969 ) on Sunday April 11, 2004 @10:40PM (#8834875)
    I think it's clear to everyone this isn't reverse engineering. They are copying the instruction set, which in most peoples opinion, is no sin. It's of mutual benefit if the instruction sets are compatible, and there is a cross-licensing agreement in place between the two companies to ensure this.

    What I think is that Intel is now saying, "Oh crap, we missed 2 instructions!" Now do they quickly add them in to maintain the compatibility, or create this wiered instruction set that is always going to be known as "Intel's Mostly Compatible AMD64 Instruction Set". I would like to see them add the 2 instructions in, just to make it easier for software developers.
  • by foxalopex ( 522681 ) on Monday April 12, 2004 @12:14AM (#8835381)
    I'm not sure AMD-64's instruction set is all that useful at this point in time owning a new Athlon64 3200+ myself. I find the Cool'n'Quiet function more impressive. At idle I have a core cpu temperature of 31 Celcius! A tie to my motherboard chipset due to it CPU clocking down to 800mhz when idle. If you ask me that's a much nicer innovation at this point.

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