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Dell boy in 64-bit mix-up

They're going down with the Itanic

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Linuxworld Michael Dell kicked off the LinuxWorld expo keynote with a ringing endorsement of Linux. For an hour we were treated to homilies to open source software, stories of how Dell itself relied on Linux, and even a clarion call against restrictive intellectual property laws - which predictably brought the house down.

In fact, he'd brought to bear all the zeal of... er... someone who's just noticed they're selling rather a lot of Linux boxes (racks might be more accurate) and wants to sell some more.

So afterwards, and noting that he'd also predicted a long life for the "x86 architecture", we asked him if his enthusiasm for both Linux and x86 extended to AMD's x86-64 architecture - which had just been blessed with its first OS support from SuSE. His answer is worth reproducing verbatim.

"We will be selling x86 64-bit servers. In fact we're demonstrating them today - they're Itanium based," he said. "Will we sell products based on the AMD 64-bit? That's to be determined. We don't have any parts today."

Designs on the future

The IA-64 design team too has effectively welded a real 32-bit x86 processor - sorta, kinda - into the hulk of the Itanic. So although the Itanium does do x86 instructions for sure, as sure as eggs is eggs, it doesn't do 64-bit x86 instructions.

Now some critics have noted that by merely describing its hot and heavy VLIW behemoth as "IA-64", Chipzilla has sought to create the illusion that's an evolutionary successor to "IA-32". While we wouldn't expect Intel to brand it IA-LeapInTheDark, you can see the point.

But there's a difference between marketing names and factual errors, and we wonder if Intel's biggest customer, and most loyal OEM ally isn't trying to take the sting out of the AMD bandwagon by saying - yeah, we do that too. Slip of the tongue or marketing statement? You decide. ®

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