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Stricken Mitsubishi backs off from Alpha

It's costing too much, and maybe the direction was wrong

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A year ago Posted 10 July 1998 After years of plugging away as a second source for Alpha, Mitsubishi is dumping the chip just as its future is starting to look brighter. Digital's Alpha was originally intended as a high-powered, mass-market chip that would supplant Intel, but it didn't succeed in this. Digital first blamed Intel and sued, then settled with Intel and sold out to Compaq. But while this was happening Samsung gained enthusiasm (and better licensing terms) for Alpha, and more recently Compaq has been sufficiently enthusiastic about the chip line for its future to be assured, even rosy. But apparently Mitsubishi can't afford to wait, and has also possibly been concentrating on developing for the wrong area. The Japanese giant was plenty of woes in addition to the Asian financial crisis, and as far as Alpha is concerned has been concentrating on producing versions of the chip for cheaper desktop workstations. Commoditisation of Alpha is also one of Samsung's goals, but at the moment Compaq's objective appears for the moment to be to increase sales of Alpha-based servers. Mitsubishi says it hasn't altogether abandoned Alpha, but has merely frozen development, and still has the licences to resume if it wants. But it's going to have to take a long hard look at its numbers, and at the kinds of development it will pursue, before it comes back into the game. ®

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