HP drops Itanium workstations

Company will continue to provide support until 2009

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) has stopped selling workstations based on Intel Corp.'s Itanium 2 microprocessor, a company spokeswoman confirmed Friday.

Citing market conditions, the company ceased selling workstations based on the 64-bit processors on Sept. 1, just two months after the first processor based on Intel's 64-bit architecture for x86 systems, called EM64T (extended memory 64 technology) 64-bit x86 architecture, began shipping.

"Basically this is a response to customer requirements in the workstation business," said Kathy Sowards, an HP spokeswoman via instant message.

HP has been selling two Itanium workstations: the single-processor zx2000 and dual-processor zx6000 workstations, both of which were introduced in September 2002.

HP's decision is a setback to the processor that Intel at one point billed as a future industry standard. In recent years, however, Intel executives positioned Itanium as an alternative to the RISC (reduced instruction set computer) processors sold by Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp.

Sun, IBM and HP, however, all continue to sell RISC-based workstations.

HP had been the only major company to sell workstations based on Itanium, said Erica Fields, an Intel spokeswoman.

"The workstation market has never been our priority focus for Itanium. Our family of Xeon processors with Nocona and EM64T provides the best price performance for the workstation market, " Fields said.

HP's decision is a further sign of the increasing dominance of PC systems in the high end of the workstation market, said Nathan Brookwood, an analyst with research firm Insight64 in Saratoga, California. "What you have is this massive migration from RISC to x86 and x86 with 64-bit extensions," he said. "Now that Xeon has 64-bit capabilities, that will probably ice the cake."

Brookwood called HP's decision "a little bit of a surprise," but "not a shock." Because there was only one major supplier of Itanium workstations, the company had difficulty in convincing sellers of high-end workstation software to port their applications to Itanium, he said.

HP will continue to provide support for the Itanium workstations until 2009, HP's Sowards said.

The decision to get out of the workstation business has no impact on HP's Itanium-based server products, Sowards said. "HP continues with successful Integrity server line," she said.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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