I'm sure someone's crunched the numbers and this makes sense on paper, but seriously? Porting to Itanium before x86? I know HP wants to prop up its teensy niche CPU server line, but I just can't see how to justify that.
The reason is they hardly have to do any work for Itanium; they just have to QA a 8-core system instead of a 4-core one. The original port was done over a decade ago. With 20/20 hindsight it was a wrong move, the right one being presumably to tell Intel to shove it and wait a few years for the x64.
Who's going to migrate software from old VMS systems to a new one on very highly vendor-locked hardware?
Someone that has a 2 or 4 core processor Itanium system already. If anything is a non-starter it's the x86 version.