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Intel misses Itanium sales mark by $26.6bn

IDC 95 per cent wrong

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If everything had gone according to plan, sales of Itanium-based servers would have totaled $28bn in 2004. That figure takes into account boom-time spending, flawless execution from Intel and widespread support for the chip. How far did Itanium end up from this vision of perfection? Really bloody far.

Total Itanium server sales hit $1.4bn in 2004, according to IDC. The same analyst firm tossed out the $28bn figure in 2000 right before the first Itanium chip hit the market. It must be comforting for those of you who pay IDC thousands of dollars to see it miss a forecast by 95 per cent. Mostly pleased Intel investors must also be a tad curious about promises unkept.

All, however, is not as bleak as it seems. Itanium did show solid gains from 2003 to 2004. Vendors moved 18,730 Itanium servers worth $479m in 2003 compared to 33,623 servers and that $1.4bn in 2004, IDC said.

The folks at Gartner calculated revenue of $1.5bn - close to that of IDC - but said 2004 server sales came in at just 26,005 units.

HP accounted for an amazing 76 per cent of those shipments, solidifying its place as the only Itanium vendor of real consequence. IBM finished a distant second in the Itanium market with 10 per cent share, and it's about to dump its entire line of Itanium servers.

Dell managed to capture 5 per cent of the Itanium market with 1,371 server sales last year, Gartner said. Dell claims it only sells what customers ask for - hence the lack of Opteron systems - but these Itanic figures beg to differ.

Dell shipped 378 Itanium servers last quarter, according to Gartner. We understand a new heating system in Michael Dell's Alaskan cabin may have accounted for half of these systems while the other boxes likely went to anyone willing to buy a Dell DJ MP3 player.

SGI moved just over 1,000 boxes to take 4 per cent of the market, and Fujitsu finished fifth with a whopping 233 systems sold in all of 2004, giving it 1 per cent of the market. Groupe Bull, NEC, Legend, LangChao and Unisys rounded out the top ten Itanium vendors - each managing to convince a few close, personal friends to take some Itanic kit off their hands.

It's not a stretch to say that Itanium was one factor in HP CEO Carly Fiorina's dismissal. The chip's slow adoption caused HP to miss out on a lot of high-end server revenue as PA-RISC and Alpha customers turned to IBM and Sun Microsystems rather than be forced to board the Itanic. The dearth of high-end sales hurt HP's hardware margins and contributed to large quarterly fluctuations that made HP appear operationally inefficient.

HP, for example, saw its Unix server sales slow by 10 per cent last quarter, while IBM's surged 13 per cent. ®

Related stories

Is IBM shutting down its Itanium shop?
Intel puts Itanium saviour on ice
Dell rejects idea of AMD defection
IBM douses Xeon servers with Hurricane
Intel steers Itanic core correction

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