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Intel's Otellini promises ‘Year of Itanium’

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Peeved that AMD is taking the 64bit plaudits this week, Intel has promised that Itanium's twelfth year will be its finest yet. The project began in December 1991, and was formally unveiled in a joint announcement with Hewlett Packard in 1995. Some analysts were cautious: in 1997 IDC predicted that it would be 2002 before EPIC would be the dominant desktop chip.

At Intel's Fall analyst conference today, Craig Barrett cited Yogi Berra, who said "the future ain't what it used to be."

Now three years after the first silicon finally appeared, quarterly sales have finally broken through the psychologically-important 3,000 unit barrier. Over 160,000,000 PCs will ship this year, with Intel Inside 82 per cent of these.

Unabashed, Paul Otellini took the offensive at Intel's Fall analyst conference today.

"This product line is not going to stand on its current success," he told analysts.

Otellini says Intel will ship 100,000 Itanium chips this year. That's 89,000 more than most estimates, and given how close we are to 2004 - there just six weeks of 2003 remaining - it suggests the most dramatic Xmas shopping spree we'll have ever seen. In 2003 so far, Intel has shipped an average of a thirty Itaniums a day. To fulfill Otellini's prediction, it will be shipping 2,119 a day. Santa will certainly be busy fellow.

Seriously, however, if Otellini is correct, it suggests that Intel is shipping far more Itaniums itself than it is through its OEM channel, and where these are ending up is certainly a puzzle. Otellini cited a 4,000 CPU Madison cluster.

The boat race that launched 100,000 chips

But what will lure these new users to the venerable vessel? Not dual core Itanium, which isn't expected to appear until 2005, and the fascinating multicore Tanglewood variant, designed by some of the Alpha team, will not appear before 2006 or 2007 according to Otellini. Otellini named Tanglewood for the first time, branding it the "third generation" of the processor.

In a sense Itanium has had some positive effects for Intel: Alpha, MIPS and PA-RISC are no longer under very active development. Motorola's 88000 had only a short and unhappy life, so Itanium has removed several potential competitors from the market.

Otellini singled out Sun Microsystems for special treatment. Sun had lost three percentage points of share in three years, said the Intel President, while Intel had grow four points. With Sun's low volumes, it was less able to drive standards in the industry. It wasn't clear what standards Itanium's microscopic volumes have driven, but we guess we just answered that question.

AMD this week said it was building a new fab facility in Dresden to meet the demand for its 64 bit Opteron processor, thanks to a large Chinese win from Sun. ®

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