Chip maker extraordinaire Intel(Nasdaq: INTC) is turning Japanese. Well, sort of. The American company is partnering with Japan's Fujitsu to turn out some Linux-based, Intel-chip-havin' servers.

For Intel, which has a hankering to get its chips into more than just personal computers, this is a nice step forward. It's also a solid vote of confidence for its 64-bit Itanium line of chips.

Fujitsu will use the ultra-fast Itanium chips for its high-end servers and Intel's Xeon chips for smaller systems. The huge Japanese computer and electronics company expects to have the smaller servers ready for market by the end of 2004, and the more sophisticated systems out in 2005.

No one wants to shut Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) out of the action, of course, so the servers will run both Windows and Linux. Fujitsu, though, is banking on the success of Linux-based products for its cost-conscious corporate clients, and has created a team of 300 engineers devoted to just that effort. Intel cares not -- it can power either operating system.

Fujitsu is the fifth-largest server manufacturer in the world, and has been producing servers using the Unix operating system and Sparc architecture from Sun Microsystems(Nasdaq: SUNW), in addition to turning out its own proprietary systems. Sun seems none too pleased about today's announcement, with one corporate officer saying that Fujitsu is "asking for it" by betting on so-called untested technology. (Bitter, party of one, now seating.)

The agreement between Fujitsu and Intel isn't exclusive, though. Fujitsu will continue to make its own servers, as well as the Unix/Sun ones. The company will just have another offering soon, broadening its product line and perhaps market share. That's an unquestionably good thing for Fujitsu, and certainly for Intel, too.

Disclosure: LouAnn Lofton owns shares of Microsoft.