Itanium & Intel
HP partnered w/ intel as they could not afford to stay in the fab game. The design was good, apart from two problems
-dynamic compilation languages took off, it's hard to compile down for something as complex as PA-WideWord
-AMD pushed Intel hard, first on x86, then led the way on x86-64, removing the edge of Itanium performance.
I don't see Sparc or Itanium surviving for more than 5 years. Apart from the "big database" deals, x86 are it, in tens to hundreds. Yes, the hardware is commoditised, but it is nice that it's the same on your laptop as your server: no surprises. Yes, the OS is a "commodity" Linux, but it is nice that it's the same on your laptop as the server: less surprises.
Linux has been transformational, and helped kill Sun: why pay for Solaris on Sparc when you can get Linux on x86 -especially as that is the platform that OSS apps are being written for, that you can pay by the hour for on EC2?
What it has done for HP is removed differentiation between them, Dell, SGI in the server deals: the CPU and OS may have been commoditised, but that doesn't mean the layers above need to be. Which is where Larry makes his cash. Today.