OC3D is claiming that Intel is working on a significantly new architecture, targeting somewhere around the 2019 or 2020 time frame. Like AMD’s Bulldozer, while there were several architectures after the initial release, they were all based around a set of the same basic assumptions with tweaks for better IPC, reducing bottlenecks, and so forth. Intel has also been using the same fundamentals since Sandy Bridge, albeit theirs aligned much better with how x86 applications were being developed.
According to the report, Intel’s new architecture is expected to remove some old instructions, which will make it less compatible with applications that use these commands. This is actually very similar to what AMD was attempting to do with Bulldozer… to a point. AMD projected that applications would scale well to multiple cores, and use GPUs for floating-point operations; as such, they designed cores in pairs, and decided to eliminate redundant parts, such as half of the floating-point units. Hindsight being 20/20, we now know that developers didn’t change their habits (and earlier Bulldozer parts were allegedly overzealous with cutting out elements in a few areas, too).
In Intel’s case, from what we hear about at the moment, their cuts should be less broad than AMD’s. Rather than projecting a radical shift in programming, they’re just going to cut the fat of their existing instruction set, unless there’s bigger changes planned for the next couple years of development. As for the unlucky applications that use these instructions, OC3D speculates that either Intel or the host operating systems will provide some emulation method, likely in software.
If the things they cut haven’t been used in several years, then you can probably get acceptable performance in the applications that require them via emulation. On the other hand, a bad decision could choke the processor in the same way that Bulldozer, especially the early variants, did for AMD. On the other-other hand, Intel has something that AMD didn’t: the market-share to push (desktop) developers in a given direction. On the fourth hand, which I’ll return to its rightful owner, I promise, we don’t know how much the “(desktop)” clause will translate to overall software in two years.
Right now, it seems like x86 is successfully holding off ARM in performance-critical, consumer applications. If that continues, then Intel might be able to push x86 software development, even if they get a little aggressive like AMD did five-plus-development-time years ago.