IBM's future Unix boxes could have AMD inside, rather than the company's own motherboards.

According to The Register, IBM will stop making its own Unix/RISC mobos and will instead re-engineer Opteron mobos so that a future generation Power chip, probably Power 7, will fit directly into their processor sockets. The cost savings that could result are significant - and the engineering effort is already under way.

Sun Microsystems is also said to be talking to AMD about a similar idea for its UltraSPARC and UltraSPARC T1 processors.

On a wider canvas, this makes a huge amount of sense for IBM and AMD, not only does the chipmaker get the sales benefits, it also helps the Texan chip company hoist itself further into the enterprise, and look even more like a serious contender for the server budget of the largest corporations. Meanwhile Big Blue saves design, engineering and production costs.

It's all part of a trend towards greater integration and use of common parts: ten years ago, while hardly dominant, servers using processors such as Motorola 680x0, Alpha, and MIPS were not unknown either. Today they're gone, and the only mainstream computer processor architectures left with any significant market share that aren't x86 are IBM's Power, Intel's Itanium and Sun's UltraSPARC. And question marks hang over the last in that list.

And Intel's already planning something similar, and for similar reasons too, with the common platform for Xeon and Itanium that it plans to introduce in 2009 - just about the same time that IBM's initiative will start to bear fruit.

Will there be any computers without x86 inside by 2016?