After years of plugging away as a second source for Alpha, Mitsubishi is dumping the chip just as its future is starting to look brighter.
Digital's Alpha was originally intended as a high-powered, mass-market chip that would supplant Intel, but it failed in this. Digital first blamed Intel and sued, then settled with Intel and sold out to Compaq.
But while this was happening Samsung gained enthusiasm (and better licensing terms) for Alpha, and more recently Compaq has been sufficiently enthusiastic about the chip line for its future to be assured.
But apparently Mitsubishi can't afford to wait and has also possibly been concentrating on developing for the wrong area. The Japanese giant has plenty of woes in addition to the Asian financial crisis and as far as Alpha is concerned has been concentrating on producing versions of the chip for cheaper desktop workstations.
Commoditisation of Alpha is also one of Samsung's goals, but at the moment Compaq's objective appears for the moment to be increasing sales of Alpha-based servers.
Mitsubishi says it has not altogether abandoned Alpha, but has merely frozen development and still has the licences to resume if it wants. But it's going to have to take a long hard look at its sales and at the type of development it will pursue before it comes back into the game.
(See today's news analysis section on "What hope for Alpha?")
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