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HP Kills Itanium Workstation Line

The Intel-HP vision--designing a new 64-bit environment from scratch--had technical merit. The x86 platform has many problems that could be eliminated by a new instruction set. However, Intel and HP underestimated the industry's reluctance to adopt a new processing environment that doesn't offer a simple migration path. Intel also may have been blindsided when AMD introduced a complete line of 64-bit hybrid processors with seamless 32-bit support and extensions for extended 64-bit addressing.

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HP's discontinuation of Itanium workstations could be another sign of unrest in the Intel-HP household. HP recently snubbed Intel by adding several Opteron servers to its product line. And Intel has introduced a line of Xeon EM64T processors with 64-bit addressing capabilities, which may help HP rival Dell develop cost-effective, extended 64-bit Xeon servers.

Whatever their squabbles, Itanium will be around for a while. Sales are up a bit, Intel has dropped prices dramatically on older chips, and new Itaniums are still on the road map--unlike the EM64T series, which barely shows up at all. But Itanium will remain a high-end niche player, partly because of cost, but mostly because 64-bit software development is increasingly focused on 32-bit processors that have been extended to support 64 bits, which means there is less need for a native 64-bit processor. If you're looking to upgrade, consider one of the extended 64-bit alternatives--unless your apps already run on Itanium.