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Digital discounts servers, upgrades Alpha

The company announces a 600-MHz Alpha processor upgrade, as well as midrange server price cuts.

Digital Equipment (DEC) announced an Alpha processor upgrade that boosts Digital servers to 600 MHz, as well as deep price cuts on selected AlphaServer models.

Digital's processor upgrade, due to ship in the middle of 1998, takes the AlphaServer from 533 MHz to 600 MHz, beating other processors such as Sun's UltraSparc III and Intel's Pentium II chip.

Meanwhile, Digital dropped the price of its midrange 4100 system, a one-processor system with a 400-MHz chip, 512MB of memory, and a 4.3GB hard drive, to $43,000 from about $56,000, a 23 percent reduction. Additionally, the Maynard, Massachusetts, company introduced an entry-level 4100 model with 128MB of memory for $35,705.

Prices on Digital's 300, 800, and 1200 AlphaServer models were also cut.

Despite the milestone, the future of Digital's 64-bit Alpha chip has been cloudy since Digital and chipmaking rival Intel agreed to resolve a complicated legal dispute last October. The settlement calls for Intel to manufacture the Alpha chip and for Digital to support Intel's forthcoming 64-bit chip, code-named Merced, which is due out in 1999.

Digital has said it will continue to support the Alpha platform, though some analysts have questioned why Digital would support both Alpha and Merced, especially if it lacks its own production capacity. "Over time, the Alpha will become less and less important," Michael Slater, principal at MicroDesign Resources, said at the time.

In the interim, however, the Alpha remains faster and more powerful than Intel's 32-bit Pentium platform. "I think there will be a place for Alpha between now and when Merced comes out because it's the fastest, and there's a significant install base out there for Digital to protect," said Jerry Sheridan, director and principal analyst at Dataquest.

"There's probably a couple more speed increases from that chip," he added.

The Alpha processor upgrade is available for $12,000.