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Dell two-timing Intel? A misunderstanding, it says

The only top-tier server firm to have stuck completely with Intel chips is caught in a seeming act of infidelity, offering for sale a chip from Intel archenemy AMD. But a Dell representative calls it a mix-up.

Dell, the only top-tier server company to have stuck completely with Intel chips, was caught in a seeming act of infidelity Wednesday, offering for sale on one of its Web sites a processor from Intel archenemy AMD.

The Round Rock, Texas, PC maker displayed an Advanced Micro Devices Opteron Model 148 processor in one of its custom-tailored online stores for business and government customers.

A Dell representative said the chip, seen in the software and peripherals section of Dell's publicly accessible New York State Government Store, turned up in error.

"There was an erroneous posting of a processor kit on that site today," the representative said. "It was intended to be posted to a single customer's Premier Page site...and it inadvertently was posted more broadly than that."

Premier Pages are password-protected "procurement portals" Dell offers to let customers access various support services, view custom-tailored product configurations and pricing arrangements, and order online.

Dell often fulfills oddball requests to keep large corporate customers happy, allowing them to tap Dell's purchasing power for all sorts of products, including AMD chips, the representative said.

The Opteron's presence may thus have shown that Dell has had to purchase at least a few AMD chips, outside of those it uses for testing purposes inside its research labs.

But Dell plans to continue to offer only Intel processor-based servers, the representative said.

Dell has said it will offer Intel's forthcoming 64-bit Xeon chip, dubbed Nocona, in its servers later this year. The first version of the chip will come out in the second quarter, Intel has said.

Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and also Sun Microsystems--three of the four largest server vendors--have all begun offering at least one Opteron server model, often citing customers' requests for the chip. HP, for example, began offering the Opteron in three different server models in February. Sun and IBM each offer the chip in their server lines.

HP and IBM have also pledged to offer Intel's 64-bit Xeon chip in the future as well.