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Stung by the widespread belief that it is giving up on its Alpha chip, Digital Equipment Corp has been talking more about its deal with Intel Corp, and come out with a revised road map for the Alpha chip in the light of Intel’s greater investment in process technology. DEC has already said that the Intel deal will help get Alpha to .18 micron technology some two years ahead of DEC’s original timetable (CI No 3,278), which means that it can increase clock speeds and cram more transistors onto the chips – although the first chip to use .18 micron – the EV8, or 21464, still won’t actually be delivered until 2001. It will now have 18 million, 100 nanosecond transistors and a clock speed of between 750MHz and 1GHz, and will eventually clock at speeds of 1.8GHz. But beyond that DEC’s now talking about the EV9, the ninth generation CMOS chip, due in 2003, with 1.2 million, 200 nanosecond transistors, clocked from 1.25GHz up. It gets a bit silly talking about an EV10, even though Intel’s Alpha cross-licensing obligations extend up until 2007 – but DEC says that the time scales it’s talking about still go way beyond anything that anyone else is prepared to talk about – even Intel itself and Hewlett-Packard Co, which as DEC suggests, is already half admitting that Merced has a lifetime of only five or six years, by revealing its successor, McKinley (CI No 3,309). DEC says that Intel is keen to keep all its plants at the same micron level, and so the Alpha parts could be produced anywhere. Intel payed $700m for DEC’s Hudson plant and 2,000 manufacturing personnel – a facility that is also being used to churn out PCI Bridge chips and Ethernet chips, of which DEC claims to be the world’s largest supplier, in order to soak up some of the spare capacity. Intel takes that business on, and will supply DEC itself – or at least its former Network Products Group, now gone to Cabletron Systems Inc – and the market in general, with the products. Even after the ten years of the agreement are up, DEC says that its current alternative Alpha sources, Samsung Electric Co – which has just come out with an 800MHz Alpha part – and Mitsubishi Electric Co, would have the option of continuing from where Intel left off. Their Alpha agreements are unaffected by the Intel deal, says the company. But it admits that in order to keep Intel interested, it must try and get volumes up. One way it hopes to do that is by porting its 64-bit Digital Unix implementation over to the Intel i64 architecture, where it will compete with Sun Microsystems and the Santa Cruz Operation. It hopes that applications developed for that version will spill over to the Alpha architecture, which unlike Sun’s Sparc and HP’s PA-RISC, shares the same byte ordering as Intel, meaning that applications will be able to be ported via a simple re-compile.

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CBR Staff Writer

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