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Hewlett-Packard Co today throws a new hat into the hotly contested graphics workstation ring; high-end PCs incorporating a new generation of graphics acceleration technology which can be used in Windows NT or Unix systems. The new Visualize fx accelerators incorporate two or more floating-point calculation units from HP’s 64-bit PA-8000 RISC architecture; previous Visualize products were based on HP’s older 32-bit PA-7200 architecture technology and have been available only on the company’s HP-UX Unix workstation line. The cross-platform technology is clearly designed to take advantage of the growing use of NT-based workstations for tasks traditionally performed by high-performance, high-cost Unix workstations; by its own admission, HP says sales of Unix workstations are flat while its NT workstations sales are increasing steadily. In response to this trend HP recently moved its Unix workstation business into the PC group to stand alongside its NT workstations. It wouldn’t comment on reports that its Unix workstation business has been losing money for at least five quarters, but it’s making a big deal of its ability to offer Unix and NT workstation solutions, suggesting that if Unix workstation sales are going anywhere – and HP’s market share declined 21.7% in 1995 to 19% last year – they are going to Redmond rather than market leader Sun Microsystems Inc. After all, Intel-based systems running Microsoft software now accounts for nearly 25% of HP’s revenue. The new accelerators are the latest in a slew of products HP has announced in the last 120 days in an attempt to take control of the high-performance graphics market dominated by Silicon Graphics Inc in the Unix segment and by rival PC suppliers in the NT sector. It’s already aligned with Microsoft Corp on a new 3D visualization and modeling software architecture called DirectModel and has developed new high-end hardware technology to take on SGI in the Unix business (CI No 3,199). Meantime, it has been confirmed, as we predicted (CI No that SGI will introduce its first Intel-based graphical NT workstations running its Alias/Wavefront subsidiary’s industry-leading graphics applications to compete with HP and other PC makers during the second half of next year.

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