Lifeline for Alpha chip

Lifeline for Alpha chip
Tom Foremski The troubled Alpha microprocessor has received a major fillip after IBM Microelectronics confirmed it is negotiating a licence with Compaq Computer. Such a licensing agreement meets part of the conditions the Federal Trade Commission specified for the transfer of Alpha production to Intel. IBM will not say what it will use the Alpha for but it is likely to be part of its custom chip business. “Why does IBM need Alpha when it has PowerPC? It could be significant in bolstering its Asic business and it could be reacting to customer demand, although I’m not sure who the customers may be,” says Jim Turley, senior analyst at US market research firm MicroDesign Resources. Turley points out that IBM is working hard to build a large library of cores for its custom chip business and Alpha could be a significant addition. Meanwhile, Alpha licensee Samsung has created a subsidiary called Alpha Processor to help market Alpha processors and systems, and provide technical support. Samsung is betting heavily on a robust Alpha division to reduce its dependency on the troubled DRAM market. But Turley is not impressed. “I can’t understand the reasons for creating Alpha Processor, its just a marketing move and does little to help Samsung,” he said. MicroDesign believes that Alpha’s days are numbered and it will fall victim to Intel’s forthcoming Merced processor.


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