Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) is busy pushing a new line of server-class chips with all its marketing might. The E7 processor family promises low power draws but high performance, making it perfect for high-density blade servers. And the company is pulling every available lever to make the darn thing look good, including this bit of hard-to-read prose: "Builds on Intel's commitment to democratize mission-critical computing by accelerating the migration away from proprietary computing environments."
I'll help you parse that statement right here. The company is simply saying that commodity hardware like the Xeon x86 line is already making specialized chips unnecessary, and Intel is happy to get rid of them. Separately, Intel VP of datacenter products Kirk Skaugen said, "There’s no workload in the world that Xeon can’t handle." All of this is ostensibly a dig at IBM (NYSE: IBM ) Power7 processors and Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) SPARC chips more than anything else, but also comes close to calling Intel's own Itanium chips obsolete.
Go back in time with me, just a couple of weeks, to when Oracle said it wouldn't support the Itanium anymore. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) cried foul and Intel was careful to reiterate its support for Itanium technology. This week's events only raise more questions about Intel's commitment to Itanium.
At the same time, Canaccord Genuity analyst Bobby Burleson sees Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) making inroads on Intel's server market with its Hercules chips. AMD's 6% market share in the server segment looks "unsustainably low" to Burleson.
Wouldn't this be an excellent time for Intel to sell off the Itanium product line to its only fan, HP? The resources spent developing that chip could be better spent on Xeons, not to mention putting an end to confusing market messages regarding which high-end chip to buy. Intel is no stranger to producing chips on demand for outside partners, after all.
Will Intel and HP go there? Add the twin high-tech giants to your watchlist and you'll be the first to know.