We had recently heard a rumor that Intel has purchased a division of Digital Equipment Corporation and might discontinue Digital's Alpha platform. We investigated and found that there is no reason for concern. Digital did sell a chip manufacturing plant to Intel for approximately $700 million, because it could not manufacture the chips as inexpensively as Intel. The two firms also signed a ten-year agreement to cross-license Intel x-86 and IA-64 and Digital Alpha chips. This means Intel can manufacture Alpha chips under license from Digital, and Digital has a license to design and sell products utilizing Intel x-86 and IA-64 chips. Digital will continue to own the patents for the Alpha chip and will continue to offer licensing rights to other manufacturers.
Digital is not the only company to cross license chips with Intel. Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Micron, and Sun have similar agreements. In fact, among the major computer manufacturers only IBM does not have a cross licensing agreement with Intel.
The Digital Alpha platform is widely used in library automation because it offers excellent price/performance. Three major vendors sell it, and several others support it. Many libraries have contracts which guarantee system performance for up to seven years. Should a product line be discontinued, the vendor of the automated library system, rather than its customers, would have to find parts for repairs and upgrades.