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When IBM finally launched a microcomputer in 1981, Apple took out sarcastic full-page press ads congratulating the PC on its debut.

Which got us thinking. What will Dell Computer do now that Sun Microsystems is a PC company? This detail was overlooked yesterday, obscured by the smoke from the nine-gun salute Sun gave to Linux. And this particular paragraph was overlooked by us:-

"New single- and multiprocessor systems, to be announced mid-year will use the x86 architecture and be capable of running thousands of Linux applications natively."

These aren't souped-up Cobalt appliances - which get a separate mention - but genuine PCs, just like what Mr Dell makes. We'll say it again, just to savour the irony. Sun's a PC company.

While even the most powerful telescopes have failed to detect a sense of humour on Planet Dell, he’s sure to make the point in his own way.

However that doesn't lessen the potential for mischief from Sun, either . The phrase "x86 architecture" doesn't mean that Sun PCs will have Intel Inside of course, and Zander yesterday repeated his disappointment with Intel for (what Sun says) withdrawing co-operation from the port of Solaris to Itanic. So Sun has a few scores to settle.

Now the AMD-Cobalt relationship was already in an advanced state of courtship before Sun's acquisition of the appliance company. The Cobalt Raq3 and Raq4 used AMD processors, and Hammer has been touted as a candidate for the most recent Raqs.

AMD has SMP to boast about in its 64-bit Hammer range, and it's not an SMP that Sun will feel threatened by just yet. Initial samples will be 2-way only. However Sun has the potential to be the biggest OEM of AMD chips in what, for the chip veteran, are two new markets: SMP and servers. When you're trying to make a splash, it's nice to have an OEM who can guarantee large volumes. And Sun's x86 strategy effectively means that a friendly, Tier One PC manufacturer has materialized in front of AMD's Sunnyvale HQ overnight.

As Chairman Scott put it a couple of weeks ago, and funnily enough he was talking about Linux, "the enemy of my enemy is also my friend". Neither AMD nor Sun want to see Itanic gain a scrap of respectability, so despite the pain for Sun in differentiating its low-end SPARCs from its Hammers, the rewards are self-evident.

Expect a cloying display of corporate affection and fraternity to follow. ®

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Sun embraces x86 in Linux overture

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