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November 22, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft Corp CEO Bill Gates showed off the first live and working Silicon Graphics Visual Workstation during his Comdex keynote speech last week. Senior VP at SGI Tom Furlong, who shared the stage with Gates, called it: bringing Silicon Graphics magic to mainstream markets. Another way to look at it is as the first result of SGI’s reluctant capitulation to the operating system it codenames The Borg (CI No 3,389). Market pressure and a series of poor quarters have combined to make SGI the latest Unix vendor to swallow the bitter NT pill. Commentators have pointed out that the company’s O2 machines, which run its Irix operating system, won’t support Adobe software – an essential pre-requisite if the company wants a slice of the lucrative pre-press market. SGI stresses, however, that the Visual Workstation is not a replacement for the O2, which it calls a feature-rich small Unix machine with an enduring market niche. They do acknowledge that the Visual Workstation is bound to steal some of O2’s thunder. Furlong said the machine will be officially announced after January 1 1999 and will sell for less than $4,000. So he probably won’t welcome the news that Hewlett- Packard Co is to cut the prices of its Kayak Pentium II-based PC workstations running Windows NT by up to 12% today (Monday). HP sells a range of Kayaks, from the XA, aimed at high-end spreadsheet and financial modeling work and digital content creation, up to the XA-s and XU PC dual processors for software developers, animators and 2D mechanical designers. The cuts reduce the entry-level price of the Pentium-II based systems down to $1,820 for a 350MHz XA PC machine with 64MB SDRAM and 4.3Gb hard drive, while high-end systems with a single 400MHz processor and Matrox G200 graphics will cost $3,130. While SGI will no- doubt claim better graphics performance, it won’t be able to command the kind of margins it’s historically enjoyed on its Unix-based workstation line.

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