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Compaq Drops Effort to Tie Alpha Chips to Windows 2000

From Associated Press

Compaq Computer Corp. has abandoned efforts to make its advanced Alpha computer chips compatible with 32-bit Windows 2000, the next version of Microsoft Corp.'s NT operating system due out this year.

Houston-based Compaq said it has disbanded the 100-person team assigned to the project. Some layoffs are likely.

“The decision in no way diminishes our commitment to Microsoft or Alpha,” Compaq spokesman Jim Finlaw said Sunday. “Alpha is the development platform for 64-bit Windows NT.”

The company continues to work with Microsoft to develop 64-bit Windows NT, Finlaw said.

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The Alpha chip has been consistently faster than Intel’s Pentium line because it’s built to handle 64 bits of data at a time, compared with 32 bits for Pentium, the Boston Globe reported Saturday.

But Alpha’s 64-bit design won’t run Window’s 32-bit operating system, including NT, without a translation program, the newspaper said. This translation causes Alpha to run slower, eliminating its advantage over Pentium.

The operating system is what runs the computer’s basic functions.

Finlaw said he could not confirm such a slowdown but said the decision was based on customer demand.

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“We do not plan to support 32-bit Windows 2000 on Alpha systems because we’re getting the power and performance customers need . . . with 32-bit Windows NT on the Intel platform,” he said. “We’ve got to go where the volume is.”

Meanwhile, he said, Compaq will focus on selling its Alpha-based machines with the Linux and Unix operating systems.

Unix is widely used for high-end corporate computing because it’s considered more reliable than Windows NT. Linux offers a 64-bit version of its operating system for Alpha users that is available at low cost.

The Alpha chip was developed in the early 1990s by engineers at Digital Equipment Corp., which was acquired by Compaq acquired in 1998. The alpha chip, which Compaq helps design, is manufactured by Intel and Samsung, among others, Finlaw said.


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