Publicly, Intel insists that its Itanium processor is not ready for the desktop and off the record people at the company say the Itanic is for big tin while the Opterons, if they have any effect at all, will bite into the 32-bit Xeon market.
That argument clearly doesn't wash any more. Microsoft's endorsement of an X86-64 version of Windows and the fact it appears to consider AMD chips are highly compatible with 32-bit platforms, means Intel may find itself left on a 64-bit island.
But we cannot imagine it ever countenancing being in that situation, and as we reported last week, Intel does have an X86-64 contender, whether it ends up being Son of Prescott or something completely different.
If Intel does decide to go with a processor which is modelled closely on AMD's X86-64 model, this will be a real humiliation for the chip giant. But we suspect that, as it's done so many times before, Intel will attempt to spin such a loss of face to its advantage.
Paul Otellini, Intel's CEO, has even gone on record several times saying Intel will not create an X86-64 processor, although being a highly pragmatic firm, that could all change.
Hey, this is business.
No-one need ever know that Intel has done a humiliating u-turn if the spinning proceeds properly. Just look how Chipzilla could face down the Rambus, the Caminogate and the Carmelgate fiascos. No problem at all. In the first case, it even managed to make Rambus look like the villain of the piece as it performed possibly one of the greatest u-turns in its u-turn prone history.
When *T is good and ready, Intel can "seamlessly" launch it as part of an "innovative" strategy and if it does the work well enough, well maybe it will be able to "seamlessly" run the X86-64 Anvil OS from Microsoft just as well.
Meanwhile, it can carry on positioning the Itanic as the super chip for big tin, and carry on ignoring its woeful 32-bit performance, just like it's managed to do somewhat successfully for the last few years.
After all, HP has given up the ghost on the Alpha, MIPS chips, and its PA-RISC processor, SGI is betting the farm on the Itanium 2, too, and unless Sun gets its knickers untwisted, there will only be IBM with the Power 5 and the Power 6 to compete at this big tin level.
Well, we're sure that's what Intel hopes. But the really big blow for Chipzilla would be if Dell decides that Microsoft Anvil sounds really really groovy, and the Opteron bandwagon grows.
That would leave the Itanic wrecked on a chip island too, and that's probably a humiliation too far, even for the normally insouciant Chipzilla.
Sign up for INQbot – a weekly roundup of the best from the INQ