Intel has recently released a whitepaper in which it proposes to simplify its CPU architecture by removing legacy 16-bit and 32-bit support, making them 64-bit only. Intel believes that this change will lead to better-optimized processors, resulting in better performance and efficiency.

The Background of Intel’s Processor Range

The roots of Intel’s processor range can be traced back to the original 16-bit 8086 processor, which was released in 1978. However, instead of including support for software and operating systems that are decades old, Intel believes that virtualization technologies have developed enough to emulate the necessary features for legacy systems. Therefore, Intel is suggesting that it’s time to move on.

The Benefits of 64-bit Only CPUs

Today’s 64-bit CPUs include processes to “trampoline” their way into 64-bit operation. According to Intel, “Intel 64 architecture designs come out of reset in the same state as the original 8086 and require a series of code transitions to enter 64-bit mode. Once running, these modes are not used in modern applications or operating systems.” This means that there is a lot of outdated stuff in the CPU that has been useless for some time. However, transitioning to 64-bit only CPUs is not as simple as it sounds. For example, Windows has transitioned away from 32-bit, but only fully in the Windows 11 era. There are loads of legacy 16- and 32-bit systems out there that are decades old and will need upgrading, or at least testing to see if they can be emulated.

64-bit only CPUs make a lot of sense from a gaming perspective. As users chase performance and efficiency, outdated features that few users make use of simply add complexity and bloat to a chip. Removing them has the potential to deliver all sorts of benefits. It’ll give Intel more die space for modern features, better power efficiency, faster boot times, and perhaps a lower risk of security vulnerabilities.

Possible Outcomes of Intel’s Proposal

Intel’s whitepaper is more of an introduction and is aimed at industry folks and software developers. It may be a long time before we see x86S CPUs. However, this proposal has the potential to bring consistent double-digit performance jumps without power-sucking frequency jumps. This is the dream of many tech enthusiasts. It will be interesting to see how x86S develops, and it remains to be seen how AMD, the developers of x86-64, will work with Intel to ensure that the ecosystem is not broken.

Intel’s proposal to simplify its CPU architecture by removing 16-bit and 32-bit support has the potential to deliver all sorts of benefits, including better performance, efficiency, and security. However, transitioning to 64-bit only CPUs is likely to be a complex process, and it remains to be seen how industry folks and software developers will respond to this proposal. Nevertheless, it is an exciting development that has the potential to bring significant improvements to the world of computing.


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