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7/28/2005
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Despite Critics, Intel Says Itanium Chip Is Doing Just Fine

Shipments of the Itanium 2 processor grew 170% from the first quarter of 2004 to the first quarter of 2005.

The Itanium processor has been criticized over the past several years, and some computer makers that had offered Itanium-based servers have backed away from that market. But the high-end processor is doing just fine, Intel said Thursday.

Shipments of the Itanium 2 processor grew 170% from the first quarter of 2004 to the first quarter of 2005, according to the company, and now it is generating more than a quarter of the revenue of the more-established Power server architecture by IBM.

Itanium 2 processors will occupy the top spot on Intel's new numbering scheme also unveiled on Thursday--the 9000 series. The server architecture is currently being used by more than 40% of the 100 largest companies in the world, and nine of the top 10, says Kirk Skaugen, general manager of Intel's server platforms group.

Intel earlier this month introduced what it says will be the last single-core upgrade to the Itanium 2 processor line, with dual-core versions expected next year.

It was the introduction of the Itanium architecture by Intel in 2001 that's often credited with the renaissance enjoyed by rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. in the past few years. When introduced, Intel saw Itanium as the future of mainstream 64-bit server processing. But the Itanium was criticized for breaking compatibility with the long-established x86 architecture, and adoption was slow. AMD exploited the opening with the introduction of the x86-compatible and 64-bit capable Opteron processor in 2003. Intel later reluctantly extended its Xeon processor line to include 64-bit capabilities.

Hewlett-Packard, which helped in the original design of the Itanium architecture, has bet heavily on Itanium, migrating several of its long-established RISC-based server lines to the chip. Other top-tier server makers are less enthusiastic. IBM always has preferred to steer customers to its own Power architecture, Dell executives have said Itanium "is not a growing market," and Sun Microsystems is betting heavily on Opteron and its own Sparc-based systems.

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