SoftImage Inc, which for years survived solely on sales of software for Silicon Graphics Inc workstations, has converted its programs for a variety of Unixes – a move that spells bad news for Silicon Graphics but will broaden the market for the Microsoft Corp subsidiary’s high-end graphics programs. Silicon Graphics, already stung by the release of NT versions of SoftImage and the Mental Ray rendering engine built for it by Mental Images GmbH & Co, will now have to face off against workstations from Digital Equipment Corp, Hewlett Packard Co, IBM Corp and Sun Microsystems Inc as well. A popular theory for the multiple Unix implementations last week revolved around the death of the MIPS chip in the NT market. As long as Silicon Graphics was providing silicon to the NT market via its MIPS unit, the theory goes, Redmond was happy to leave it with 100% of the non- NT market for the industry-leading SoftImage software. Now, though, the Microsoft money machine is simply interested in maximizing SoftImage sales. To kick off the new Unix versions, and in honor of a SoftImage deal with Mental Images to enhance Mental Ray for NT and Unix versions of its next-generation graphics program, code-named Sumatra, SoftImage last week offered to sell Mental Ray licenses to SoftImage 3D Extreme users at half price until March, with the license for the first CPU free with new 3D Extreme licenses. A beta site for the new SoftImage and Mental Ray versions was the High Tech Center Babelsberg, a $70m digital film product service center funded by the European Community, being built at the Babelsberg Film Studios near Berlin. The Babelsberg folks tested the code on a 64-CPU HP Exemplar X-class parallel supercomputer, to be upgraded to 128 PA-8000 CPUs next year. That sort of scalability explains why Redmond has continued to support SoftImage aggressively on Unix, rather than turn it into an NT-only product.