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IBM confirms Intel Itanium 29 May launch date

Has to wait 'til then for Intel's say-so to launch machines based on the chip

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IBM will launch its upcoming Itanium-based workstation, the IntelliStation Z-Pro 6894, when Intel tells it that it can and not a moment sooner.

"It's ready to ship as soon as Intel allows us to do so," said Steve Horobin, IBM Personal Systems Group's EMEA workstation marketing chief with special responsibility for the finance sector (but not job titles, clearly).

And Horobin confirmed that Intel will officially roll-out Itanium on 29 May - at 6am Pacific Time, to be precise - as we revealed a couple of days back.

The degree to which Big Blue is in Intel's hands here isn't entirely surprising since the beefy 6894 is almost entirely an Intel box. IBM's contribution to the hardware is primarily the black plastic the machine is encased in.

Inside sits two 800MHz Itaniums - Itania? - with 2MB of backside L3 cache apiece and mounted on a colossal heat sink daughtercard that plugs into a dual 133MHz frontside bus and up to 16GB of SDRAM.

Why the (almost) all-Intel hardware? According to Susan Davi, the Z series' worldwide product manager, the volumes aren't likely be sufficient for it to be worth IBM's while to develop its own. Nor, for that matter, has it been worth any other hardware vendor's time and effort, she implied. So expect a lot of remarkably similar boxes to ship after the 29th.

Davi said that the machine will be able to run final versions of 64-bit Red Hat Linux and TurboLinux pretty soon after launch. However, to achieve volume sales, the arrival of 64-bit Windows XP is "crucial", Horobin added.

Since XP isn't due until 26 October, IBM has a bit of a wait on its hands. In any case, this first Itanium box will be primarily chosen by "early adopters", said Davi. Expect the market to pick up when McKinley - aka Itanium 2 - comes along next year.

IBM also unveiled today the IntelliStation M-Pro 6850, based on Xeon, the processor formerly known as Pentium 4 Xeon, itself the processor formerly known as Foster.

The box contains two of the chips, which the company - toeing the Intel line - will only say run at 1.4GHz or higher. As we reported earlier, however, sources say there are two 1.7GHz Xeons in there, and there's a 1.5GHz uni-processor Xeon box on the way too.

IBM couldn't say when the dual-Xeon 6850 will ship - again, it's waiting on Intel's say-so following the chip maker's unfortunate last-minute cancellation of Tuesday's launch. Intel says the Xeon will be launched at the end of the month - alongside Itanium on the 29th, we guess. ®

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