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Samsung announces Alpha subsidiary

Samsung details a new subsidiary charged with marketing Digital Alpha chips, focusing the processor's drive into the Windows NT market.

NEW YORK--Samsung announced details of a new subsidiary charged with marketing Digital Equipment's Alpha architecture chips, focusing the processor's drive into the Windows NT market.

Along with Compaq and Microsoft executives, Samsung executive vice president and Alpha Processor CEO Daeje Chin announced the creation of Alpha Processor, a subsidiary for the marketing and sale of chips based on Digital's 64-bit Alpha architecture. The "fabless" company will try to advance the chip in the NT market, now dominated by 32-bit Intel processors.

Samsung obtained an architectural license from Digital last fall, which gave the Korean manufacturer access to future versions of Alpha as well as the ability to design its own Alpha-based chips. Compaq agreed to buy Digital in a deal struck in January of this year, and completed the deal last week.

In a separate keynote speech at PC Expo today, Compaq chief executive officer Eckhard Pfeiffer outlined a future for his company that will involve an increased push into high-end corporate computing, including support for Alpha.

The endeavor will constitute Compaq's first hands-on experience in a chipmaking venture. Samsung is one of the most ardent and largest supporters of the 64-bit Alpha platform outside of Digital and will become increasingly central to the platform's survival. The company both makes Alpha chips and uses them in its servers. A 700-MHz version of Alpha from Samsung is due later this year.

"Alpha is the only commercially available processor capable of breaking the 1-gigahertz barrier," Chin said in a prepared statement. "Our relationship with Compaq ensures expertise in volume 'channel' marketing; through Microsoft we can deliver Windows NT compatibility."

Under the new regime, Samsung will design and manufacture chips while the Alpha Processor subsidiary will sell them and try to recruit computer vendors. John Rose, senior vice president of Compaq's enterprise business unit, and Jim Allchin, senior vice president of Microsoft, lent their support to the debut.

Compaq, meanwhile, will absorb Digital's chip design team now that its acquisition of Digital has been approved by shareholders, according to industry sources, marking a substantial advancement in Compaq's involvement in chip production. Compaq has frequently said that it is committed to supporting Alpha in the future.

A number of analysts, however, have said that the company will make an objective judgment about its future commitment to the platform after the release of the 64-bit Merced chip from Intel in 2000. Both Compaq and Digital have agreed to support Merced.