Intel proposes x86-S instruction set architecture with 64bit support only

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Intel has published a proposal to introduce a 64-bit-only variant of its x86 instruction set. The company has written a white paper with an idea for an x86-S architecture, which, among other things, removes native support for 32-bit OSes.

Intel writes in a blog post that it is thinking about introducing a 64bit-only-x86 architecture. According to the company, the time has come for that, because 64-bit operating systems are now the standard. The company wants to call the new architecture x86-S, where the S stands for Simplified. Any changes could be made to future Intel chips, though it’s only a vision right now.

The x86-S-isa would mean that CPUs can only be started in 64bit mode. The company is scrapping several legacy modes, which the company says are currently of little use. That’s one of the changes 32bit ring 0 from the x86 architecture. The same goes for ring 1 and 2, which are currently not used in modern operating systems.

If the changes are implemented, users would need to apply virtualization to run legacy 32-bit operating systems. The changes would only impact the use of such operating systems; 32bit applications would continue to work. That corresponds to the functionality of current operating systems, writes Intel. For example, Microsoft only released a 64bit version of Windows 11, but that version still supports 32bit software.

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