Compaq has abandoned plans to port Microsoft's 32bit Windows 2000 operating system (OS) to its 64bit Alpha chip and laid off more than 100 staff that worked at the software giant's headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
After news of the move leaked out, Microsoft issued a statement saying it would not support new NT development on any architecture other than Intel's. But it said it would continue to support all customers using version 4.0 of NT Workstation and Server on the Alpha platform, and would still ship the forthcoming Service Pack 6 for Windows NT 4.0.
Compaq, likewise, said it was not giving up on NT altogether and would port the 64bit version of the OS to Alpha instead. It added that it also had no plans to drop support for Tru64 Unix on Alpha and was still committed to Alpha servers, especially those running Tru64Unix, OpenVMS and Linux.
But according to market analyst, Terry Shannon, who publishes the Shannon Knows Compaq newsletter, Compaq's decision was based on the fact that it had seen the writing on the wall for NT on Alpha.
And he claimed that Enrico Pesatori, senior vice president and group general manager of Compaq's enterprise solutions and server group, had leaked an internal memo dated 20 August to him, which detailed the firm's shift in strategy.
The memo said: "that after analysing the needs of our customers and the reality of the marketplace, we have decided to end systems development for 32bit Windows NT on Alpha, with the delivery of version 4 SP6 in late 1999. We do not plan to support 32bit Windows 2000 on Alpha systems."
The memo continued that "the decision in no way diminishes our strong partnership with Microsoft or our commitment to Alpha", and that Compaq would continue to partner aggressively with Microsoft on developing the 64bit version of Windows NT.
It added that Compaq was completely "focused on protecting our customers investments and will support 32bit Windows NT on Alpha for as long as they require and offer migration paths to other Compaq platforms".
And Shannon said that such a move made good sense economically. "My guess is Windows NT runs on a relatively small number of Alpha Servers, about 12 per cent, and this was not a success. Compaq took a good look at the numbers and said, 'this is not for us,'" he claimed.
He added: "The company is aware of the fine mess it has gotten itself into. I expect that within several days a formal statement will come from Compaq."
Compaq officials did not return requests for comment on Wednesday, however.
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