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Silicon Graphics Inc is trying to figure out how it can market and make money from an Intel Corp box running Windows NT without cannibalizing sales of its more profitable Mips RISC line. Although SGI is well-regarded for its high-performance Unix-based graphical systems, it’s coming under increasing pressure in its traditional imaging, video and multimedia markets from PC vendors creating high-performance Intel-based NT workstations which are cheaper than the SGI boxes. SGI’s key advantage is its specialized graphics applications, including those from its Alias/Wavefront subsidiary, that aren’t available to the PC vendors seeking ways to exploit the lucrative graphics business, such as Compaq, Dell and Intergraph. Making the software available on low-cost Intel-based Windows NT workstations may help SGI retain customers that would otherwise choose a PC solution, but they would inevitably detract from sales of its higher margin Mips RISC-based systems and likely as not put a question mark over longevity of the Mips architecture itself. In fact SGI’s already started to build a software business on NT by creating NT versions of its Cosmo VRML software, but hasn’t yet ported some of its crown jewels graphics software over or decided whether to go ahead and sell an Intel-based NT solution (although we know it’s been considering putting Alias/Wavefront up on NT for some time). SGI says it hasn’t yet figured out how it can differentiate an Intel-NT solution from its Mips-based Unix products although it would probably be able to make a case for selling a low-cost NT graphics box for certain types of requirements and maintaining its higher-end systems for industrial-strength users. SGI is also under attack from other Unix vendors who want to steal away its customers at the very high-end of the graphic processing market, a market which is all- but owned by SGI currently. SGI called a Business Week report that it would have an Intel-NT box out in a year speculation.

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CBR Staff Writer

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