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It could have been the constant engine room clang or maybe the ominous ice triangles bobbing up and down off in the distance. It's hard to say exactly what made it happen, but Parametric Technology Corp. (PTC) got nervous. The software maker has abandoned the Itanic and leapt for a lifeboat marked Xeon Extender.

"PTC will no longer be supporting the Intel Itanium systems for Pro/ENGINEER, Pro/INTRALINK and Windchill, effective June 1st, 2004," the company said in a statement. "With this decertification of the Intel Itanium and PTC's plans to support the next generation Xeon better aligns us with the growing customer demand for supporting an architecture that will operate in 32-bit and 64-bit modes with improved performance, memory allocation and lower total cost of ownership."

Throughout Itanium's tedious existence, attracting ISVs to the chip's EPIC instruction set has been a major problem for Intel. After many years hawking Itanic, Intel did, however, finally manage to assemble an impressive stable of software makers. But one must wonder if PTC's move signals the start of an Itanium fallout as ISVs decide against feeding an ever-deepening money pit and focus on the healthy Xeon market instead.

While not a household name, PTC does make software used by Boeing, Rolex, Audi, Nike, Braun, Maytag and Itanium sellers HP and Dell. The company is a large CAD software maker that just reported $165m in second quarter revenue. It's more or less exactly the type of high-end software maker Intel hoped to see on Itanic. But instead, PTC has decided to focus on Intel's x86-64-bit Xeon processor. The company made this particular move due in large part to partner HP's leanings to 64-bit x86 chips such as Opteron and Xeon Extender.

"HP feels that this new technology is a complement to existing Intel processor family," PTC said. "As a benefit, customers will receive systems that will expand with their growing demand for more memory when dealing with large datasets, by enabling users to move to a 64-bit environment on the same hardware. Not only will they experience greater memory allocation, but also enhanced performance and overall cost of ownership will be drastically improved."

Intel must be pained to see PTC give Itanium the finger, but must be made even angrier by PTC's decision to blur the line between Itanic and the upcoming 64-bit Xeon. This wasn't supposed to happen - remember? Different markets. Different focus. Not competing. But here is PTC citing Itanium's biggest fan - HP - as the reason for its move away from Itanium. If that's not trouble on a deserted tropical island (The Itanic equivalent of paradise), we don't know what is.

What are PTC's Itanium customers to do now? Well, PTC has an e-mail address - listed in the statement - standing by.

"PTC intends to work with you to help facilitate transitional issues that may arise."

That's comforting. ®

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