Intel Corp. Monday signed a deal to essentially take over Compaq Computer Corp.'s 64-bit Alpha processor technology and subsequently infuse it into future generations of Intel's own IA-64 processors following the Itanium.
As part of the deal, Compaq will move all of its 64-bit server and workstations to Intel IA-64 bit processors by 2004. In the meantime, Compaq will move ahead with the release of a server line based on the long-awaited Alpha EV7 processor.
For its part, Intel will gain access not only to the Alpha processor technology, but will pick up the majority of Alpha engineers now working at Compaq. The Houston-based computer maker is expected to retain some Alpha personnel until all current EV7 work is completed.
How the deal will buttress Intel's 64-bit processor ramp remains to be seen but in the short term will remove at least one 64-bit competitor for the field and enable Intel to work the advanced Alpha technology into its own development plans.
Analysts said the deal could stir protests and possible antitrust complaints from Sun Microsystems, which is gearing up for a titanic battle against Intel's efforts to move heavily into the 64-bit server and workstation market. Rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. is also likely to be concerned, because AMD already uses the Alpha EV-6 bus line for its processor bus in its current 32-bit Athlon and Duron processors. AMD and Alpha also had several cooperative development deals underway on advanced chipsets and bus lines for future processors.
The Compaq announcement confirms what has been inferred by Intel, but never official disclosed: That all future IA-64 processors will be part of a family called "Itanium," even though the initial Itanium chip now on the market will be succeeded next year by a new chip code-named McKinley.