Microsoft Corporation issued a statement this week explaining how it would support the Alpha platform in the wake of Compaq's decision to drop support for 32-bit Windows 2000. As expected, Microsoft will cease development of 32-bit versions of Windows 2000 on Alpha, leaving Intel as the sole platform for this highly anticipated operating system.

As for NT 4.0, Microsoft will continue to support existing Alpha through the lifetime of the NT 4.0 product line. Service Pack 6.0 (SP6) for Windows NT 4.0, due this fall, will ship in an Alpha version, though this will be the last Alpha-based Service Pack for NT 4.0. And the company will continue to release post-SP6 hot-fixes for the Alpha version of NT, as well as hot-fixes for other BackOffice products such as SQL Server and Exchange Server. The company was mute about future Alpha versions of these products, though we can assume that 64-bit versions are in the works.

Anyone that's followed the Alpha platform is probably not surprised by this development. Intel and AMD ship well over 100 million CPUs every year, and over 95% of them run some version of Windows. Meanwhile, Compaq has sold less than 500,000 Alpha machines over the course of its lifetime, and only 50,000-75,000 of those are running NT.

But support on Alpha has always given Microsoft the high-end credibility it needed to compete with the big boys. As an alternative to Alpha, Microsoft and Compaq are both suggesting eight-way Intel servers running Windows 2000 Advanced Server. And isn't it interesting that Microsoft--just last week--announced that the SMP support in Advanced Server would be bumped from four processors to eight? A coincidence? Hardly: Clearly, Microsoft was tipped off by Compaq that Alpha support was coming to an end