Compaq and Samsung have outlined plans to revitalise the Alpha processor with a $400m (£260m) investment (CRN, 15 December).
Compaq signed an agreement with Samsung and Alpha Processor Inc (API) to jointly invest the money in new markets and in developing shared technology.
API is an Alpha marketing and manufacturing unit jointly owned by Samsung, which has an 87 per cent share, and Compaq. The companies said the additional investments in Alpha could exceed $1.5bn in the next five years.
Compaq recently announced a plan to spend $100m on marketing its Tru64 Unix product, which runs on Alpha.
Compaq is currently investing $150m each year on Alpha R&D, using about 500 developers, according to analyst Terry Shannon, author of the Shannon Knows Compaq newsletter. This new expenditure will significantly increase Alpha's market opportunities, he said. "If I was Compaq, I would do anything to bang the Alpha drum."
A real growth market is in low-end servers, particularly for telcos and ISPs, according to Shannon. "The API architectural licence would allow a low-cost server running Linux," he said.
Martin Hingley, analyst at IDC, said this move would help Compaq regain long-term credibility for its Alpha and Tru64 products. "Until now, there was not much of a future for Alpha. It was not quite as strategic for Compaq."
Hingley also noted that Samsung has tried to develop a low-price workstation strategy for some years, including with Hewlett-Packard, and that this announcement might signal a renewed attempt on that market.
IDC figures show that Alpha sales increased in the third quarter of 1999, despite Compaq's move to can Alpha for Windows 2000, much to the annoyance of many UK resellers.
Hingley claimed that between five and seven per cent of Alpha sales were already for the Linux platform, a higher percentage than its competitors'.
THE ALPHA AGREEMENT
The announcement includes a possible deal for API to supply workstations and servers to Compaq.
Expand Alpha into new markets.
Samsung to bring new technology to Alpha.
Independent software vendor support to increase by 400 per cent.
Doubling of sales support.
ISV partnerships to develop Open Source tools for Linux on Alpha.
Collaboration between API and AMD on related chip technologies.
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