ONE of the developments which is likely to have a significant impact in the microprocessor market will be the release of systems using Sun's new UltraSPARC technology. Until the development of UltraSPARC - the first generation of chips based on the new SPARC v9 specification - some analysts had noted that SPARC chips were somewhat underpowered compared with newer reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC) processors on the market. The 64-bit UltraSPARC, unveiled in September by Sun's SPARC Technology Business, should be the first processor with on-chip support for multimedia including videoconferencing, real-time MPEG-2 decompression and compression, and video effects. The family should deliver SPECint92 performance values in the 200 to 400 range and SPECfp92 values from 250 to 500. The new UltraSPARC family promises full binary compatibility with existing applications for the SPARC architecture and offers a four-way superscalar design with dynamic branch prediction and a memory access architecture which allows up to four instructions per cycle. The on-chip MPEG-2 decompression is able to handle two compressions simultaneously, effectively eliminating the need for video sub-systems with dedicated video processors. Extensions to the SPARC v9 architecture - the first major extension to the architecture since 1987 - allow the UltraSPARC to quickly perform video operations called the Visual Instruction Set, which are optimised graphics instructions which can execute in one clock cycle. The Visual Instruction Set applies RISC principles to multimedia and offers eight-, 16-and 32-bit data formats tailored specifically to graphics tasks. Initial units will be produced by Texas Instruments and chip samples should be available early next year. Sun should begin shipping systems using the chips next year.by Texas Instruments and chip samples should be available early next year.