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Itanium to crystallise PC firms' Intel phobia

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Systems from a spate of PC vendors sporting Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor are still on track but the firm's own up and coming Lion system is may end up competing with better known brands from the likes of Compaq, HP and IBM. Intel is readying versions of its Lion box which will be put in place at server farms across the world, with one of the first to come on stream being in Reading. That will include boxes using both IA-32 and IA-64 architecture. The battle now between the vendors is to introduce systems which differentiate themselves from, so-to-speak, bog standard IA-64 systems with different vendors taking separate approaches to the marketplace. HP, for example, is claiming that its close relationship with Intel in developing code at the base of IA-64 technology, will allow it to offer a solution which offers 99.9 per cent binary compatibility for Unix based applications. Compaq is taking a different approach, and two months ago said that while it would offer two way and four way systems later this year, it continued to concentrate its efforts on its successful eight-way Proliant systems, which it will migrate to McKinley, the .13 version of IA-64 technology, which is slated to appear next year. While Dell will also offer Itanium based systems during the course of this year, they are likely to incorporate most of the elements of Intel's Lion project, and offer little in the way of fancy bells and whistles. IBM is hoping that its acquisition of Sequent last year will allow it to build elements into Itanium systems that appeal to its corporate clients. Although Intel has promised Itanium systems for the second half of this year, realistically these are unlikely to arrive until Autumn. There remains a great deal of work to be done to convert Windows 2000 into a fully fledged OS for Itanium, according to a source close to HP's plans. One of the paradoxes of this year's Intel roadmap is that the firm will have 32-bit processors by the end of this year running considerably faster than Itanium systems. At launch, Itaniums are unlikely to go faster than around 800MHz, but Intel insists that the 64-bitness of the beast will more than compensate for a raw clock speed comparison. ®

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