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  1. Technology
November 6, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

Father of the Pet Chuck Peddle back, planning Europe-wide Sparc operation with CMS…

As we have observed before, you can’t keep a good computer engineer down, and Chuck Peddle, father of the Pet – no, not the Penthouse Pet, the Commodore International Ltd Pet – and some of those that helped him start the Sirius-Victor-Tandy business that was so successful selling personal computers in Europe, is back at it again – this time on behalf of Sparcsystems. Peddle’s company, Thytyme Inc, which he set up some years ago to implement development plans he had, has formed an alliance with Tustin, California-based integrator CMS Enhancements Inc to handle European distribution of the CMS line of Sparc-based machines built by Trigem Inc on an exclusive basis. Thytyme intends setting up operations immediately in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. CMS manager for the Digital Equipment Corp and Sun Microsystems Inc markets, Agha Mahmood, believes the company’s efforts could result in $20m to $30m worth of Sparcette sales next year. Thytyme will also handle CMS peripherals and its Trigem-made high-end personal computers as a complement to its one-stop shopping approach. Peddle continues to work on his other technology plans with the idea of using the CMS-Thytyme alliance for distribution of the eventual product, which remains a secret, but he promises it will have important repercussions for the Unix world.

…as CMS Enhancements ramps up its Sparcsystem distribution efforts in the US market

Meanwhile CMS Enhancements, which until nine months or so ago peddled only the peripherals subsystems it integrated, and not systems, is positioning itself to become a major player in Sparcsystem distribution, anticipating US revenues of some $40m to $50m next year from its Sparc machines. The added value won’t be in the technology as much as in the packaging. Trigem will stick with making pure Sun knock-offs, probably including a 40MHz Cypress unit. CMS, on the other hand, promises to bundle them together with leading-edge drives and integrate them into specific vertical market applications, creating, for instance, a completely configured desktop publishing system. CMS is still unsure what the software is going to be. However, its distribution moves have reportedly attracted the attention of Sun’s new subsidiaries such as SunTech, also interested in moving products through CMS channels. CMS, which controls some 3,500 distribution points for its traditional business, has set up six major distribution sites and around 13 manufacturers’ representatives to handle its Sparc business in the US.

UK’s Trivision Sparcsystem builder has Radstone, Silicon Graphics graphics

The latest UK Sparcsystems player is Cheltenham, Gloucester-based Trivision Systems Ltd, which has put together a high-end workstation aimed at graphics, imaging and CAD/CAM applications. The VPXstation is rated at up to 160 MIPS, and uses boardmaker Radstone Technology Plc’s VisionMaster graphics accelerator subsystem enclosed in a Sun Microsystems Inc Sparcstation-1-type box. Trivision is licensing Silicon Graphics Inc’s Iris Graphics Library, which it will offer on the VPXstation next year, and is forming a joint venture with Radstone to develop SPX, a high-end Sparc-based graphics board. VPXstation is offered with 20MHz or 40MHz Sparc RISCs, from 8Mb to 64Mb RAM, 205Mb to 850Mb disk, 4Mb to 64Mb video memory, SCSI, Ethernet, 20 colour monitor, SunOS 4.1 and the Motif graphical user interface.

Solbourne Computer promises new top-end machine this quarter

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Longmont, Colorado-based Solbourne Computer Inc will extend its systems upwards again later this quarter, probably going to 16 processors maximum, up from eight now. It is also looking at a low-end clone box to buy in OEM, it isn’t going to go any further down than its Model 4000 desktop machine, says vice-president of sales and marketing, Mark Stevenson. He also reckons Sun will get a box under $3,000 next year, and is still strangleholding the clone market. It has been casting eyes around at other operating system implementa

tions for the Sparc, because it has to drag along behind Sun, and has been talking only talking – with ICL Plc about its multiprocessor Unix System V.4 stuff for Sparc. He reckons that Computervision Corp signed up for Solbourne MP kit because it doesn’t like the Sun Galaxy stuff.

China’s Stone Sparcsystem builder hopes for US end-user success

Hong Kong-based Stone Group Ltd, described as China’s largest privately-held computer company with 1991 revenues estimated at $500m, is going to try to break into the US market riding on Unix’s coat-tails. Like many Pacific Rim concerns, Stone is now a Sparcsystem builder with various configurations of LSI Logic Corp’s instant SparcKit. As a Sparc newcomer, it expects to sell these boxes into China, a market it apparently controls a chunk of, plus other Far East venues, Europe and the US through OEM customers, distributors and resellers. However, StoneSystems Inc, the firm’s new US arm, is hoping to create market pull by focusing on end-user needs. It projects revenues of $30m to $40m in the next 12 months, 70% of it from Unix products. It thinks it has added value with its Multi-VGA, a VGA multi-video card meant to replace local networks by enabling four to 16 monitors simultaneously to share a CPU. Currently available for 80386 and 80486 boxes under Santa Cruz Operation Inc Unix (or bundled with Stone-made personal computers), the company is planning one for Sparcs, expecting to deliver in the second quarter of next year. Last week, StoneSystems, which intends upgrading Sun’s installed base by offering a better trade-in policy than is available from Sun and exporting what it takes in back to China, opened negotiations to do a MIPS Computer Systems Inc RISC machine and may join ACE. StoneSystems also wants to do pure X terminals. However, it has a system that is reminiscent of the Qume Corp offering: Multi-X, priced between $6,000 and $16,000, enables a maximum eight users to run Motif-based X Window System applications on 14 VGA monitors attached to a single Multi-X controller.

RDI Computer enlists Nissan designers for hang-it-on-the-wall profile

Sparc laptop pioneer RDI Computer Corp, San Diego, showed off one of the most stunning new product designs at Comdex last week, the RDI Profile, a sexy slim-line Sparc workstation that hangs on the wall. Called the world’s first convertible, the thing can also sit conventionally on the desk in 50% of the space a typical workstation takes up. Cleverly, RDI went to Nissan Design International, Nissan Motor Co’s design people, for this one. Right now it’s a 17.4 MIPS 25MHz LSI Logic Corp microprocessor-based Sparc machine, using a motherboard RDI laid out, but it could just as easily be an MS-DOS personal computer or a Macintosh, the company said. It plans to license the design. As is, the Profile houses a 207Mb drive, 3.5 floppy and 8Mb RAM expandable to 32Mb. The screen is a thin film transistor colour liquid crystal diode with 640 by 480 resolution or a monochrome display that puts up 1,152 by 900 pixels. Unlike RDI’s battery-fed BriteLite, the 15 lb Profile is mains-powered. Pricing is still up in the air, but should come in at around $10,000 when it starts to ship in January. The company also said that it has started shipping its supertwist 1,152 by 900 screen option for the BriteLite. Piggy backing Sun Microsystems Inc, RDI has signed Access Graphics Inc, Cal-Abco Inc and Epson Canada Ltd as distributors for the Brite Lite.

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