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Compaq abandons Alpha chips

Compaq abandons Alpha chips

Compaq will transfer its entire 64-bit family of servers to Intel's Itanium microprocessor architecture by 2004, thus abandoning its proprietary Alpha processor technology, the company announced last week.

In a joint teleconference, the companies announced Compaq would sell key intellectual property behind its Alpha processor business to Intel as part of the agreement.

"There will be a single base line across all our platforms. We are standardising on the Itanium microprocessor line," Compaq chairman and CEO Michael Capellas said.

Under the non-exclusive, multi-year agreement, Compaq will transfer Alpha tools and engineering resources to Intel, along with granting licences to Compaq's Alpha technology and compilers, Capellas said.

According to Greg Healy,

business general manager, at Compaq Australia, the Alpha product set is sold both directly and indirectly in Australia and is aimed at the upper end of the UNIX computing market.

"If you look forward five years, our differentiation with 64-bit architecture would be diminished," Healy said. "Compaq and Intel have a shared vision in driving industry standards in the market.

"This was an opportunity to merge the development of the two technologies and accelerate the adoption of Itanium as a 64-bit standard. It is good for our channels and our customers," he said.

Healy also denied there would be issues with ISVs (independent software developers) and customers on Alpha platforms having to recompile code for Itanium processors before the phase out occurs.

"The merged technology comes to market in 2003-2004," Healy said. "We will absolutely protect customer investment in Alpha.

"We have a clear plan. As the new systems become available, you just add Itanium-based systems to existing clusters.

Meanwhile, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) last week, Compaq is priming itself to restructure around the packaging of services and computers aimed at specific industries, rather than its current hardware focus.

The company plans to take an approach that puts Compaq in competition with the likes of IBM, according to internal memos Capellas sent to all employees, the WSJ said.

According to the WSJ report, Compaq plans to offer services to specific industries such as finance, telecommunications, health care and manufacturing by the end of the year.

Healy said Compaq "already has a nice mix of products and services in Australia".

Bob Kahan, executive director of the EDS' Asia Pacific South commercial industry group, didn't see a problem. He said EDS is one of Compaq's largest customers and it has been able to successfully manage similar "co-opetition" relationships with other vendors. All the same, he is a bit confused by it all.

"This is no great new thing, Compaq has been trying to align itself in services for sometime," Kahan said. "On the one hand they are saying they want to be seen first and foremost as a solution company and on the other hand they are doing deals with Intel which seem to be more on the manufacturing side again. What is it that they're trying emphasise? We're not really sure."


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