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HP ships chipset staffers to Intel

PA-Risc next, no doubt, once Intel has Alpha and HP has Compaq

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Hewlett-Packard has transferred nearly 100 chipset designers to Intel, almost certainly to develop Itanium support chips.

That's what they did at HP, after all. They also worked on chipsets designed to work with HP's PA-Risc processor line.

For some time now, Intel has relied on third-parties, such as ServerWorks and Micron, to provide chipsets for its server-oriented processors. However, with the Itanic-oriented i870, it's having another go at serving the market itself. The i870 is due to ship next quarter and will support the second-generation Itanic, codenamed McKinley.

The i870 will initially support two- to eight-way servers, but Intel has discussed extending it to 256-processor systems. Given that takes it way beyond the chip giant's areas expertise, it's hard to imagine that HP hasn't had some considerable input into the i870's design. After all, HP's engineers co-designed Itanium and have been recently working on McKinley.

Sending the chipset staff to Intel - a plan confirmed by an Intel representative, CNET says - may indeed be the first stage of a programme that will eventually see HP transfer the rest of its processor development staff to Chipzilla. HP has committed itself to Itanium, to the extent that it will ultimately supersede its own PA-Risc technology. But now, under Carly Fiorina, it wants to focus itself systems and services, it makes sense to hand its chip operation over to its chip partner, Intel.

That plan mirrors Compaq's own sale of its Alpha chip unit to Intel. Indeed, following HP's move to acquire Compaq, we strongly believe that the Alpha sale was made to prepare the way for the merger. On the same grounds, we can see HP passing its PA-Risc team on to Intel, too. Indeed, it's beginning to look like a three-way scheme to strengthen the momentum behind Itanium - and the companies riding on it - as it goes up against Sun's Sparc platform. ®

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