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It's Not Intel's Fault

Unisys and Hewlett-Packard both have released systems using Intel's new Itanium 2 processor and a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows. These new systems are designed to compete with high-end Unix systems, a market dominated by IBM and Sun Microsystems.

The first version of the Itanium processor received a lukewarm reception. Expect the same for version 2--not because it's a weak processor but for the same reason the original sputtered: Windows.

The hallmark of the Sun and IBM Unix systems has been reliability and uptime--two traits that can't easily be attached to Windows systems. It's conceivable that one day Windows will be suitable for high-end installations, but that day isn't here yet. What's more, customers and software vendors will have to recompile programs to support Itanium 2. While it will run in a 32-bit "compatibility mode," companies don't pay top dollar to get so-so performance in compatibility mode.

Market uncertainty, the persistent shortcomings of Windows and relatively small third-party vendor support for this new processor makes it a risky investment.

--Steven J. Schuchart Jr., [email protected]