Silicon Graphics is to launch two Windows NT-based workstations today, marking a dramatic turnaround for a company that is renowned for its high-end Unix workstations.
The new machines sport the latest Intel Pentiums instead of SGI's traditional MIPS processors, and combine the company's expertise in video and 3D technology with mainstream PC hardware. The result is a range of machines that analysts claim deliver the best price/performance ratio currently available.
Rob Enderle, analyst and vice president at the Giga Information Group in the US, commented: "SGI took what it did best in video, 3D and audio and applied it to Intel and Microsoft technology. (The new machines) outperform everything else at this price point."
Ray Moore, senior analyst at the Aberdeen Group in the US, was equally complimentary. "The new machines are very impressive," he said. "SGI's previous price/performance figures were good ammunition for competitors to use against it. The challenge for SGI will be to break beyond its traditional markets in order to compete."
Robin Bloor, CEO of Bloor Research in the UK, was more sceptical of SGI's new direction. "SGI is the absolute premier in this market, but it's interesting to see that Windows NT has eaten into SGI," he said. "This is not good news for SGI. However, the fact that SGI has (adopted) NT was inevitable."
Bloor argued that the move to NT was purely a low-end play. "This won't damage SGI's top end," he asserted. "I don't think NT is capable of the parallelism required at the top end. But Microsoft has done a great job of lining up the applications for NT."
Responding to comments by Rick Belluzzo, CEO of SGI, that users were asking for Linux support, Bloor said that the freeware operating system was not yet up to the task.
"Linux is doing to NT what NT did to Unix, undermining NT's credibility at the bottom end," he said. "Applications are a major hurdle at the high end for Linux, and SGI would have to work hard to get Linux running on its hardware. But as soon as Linux becomes mainstream, SGI will use it."
- Full analysis, p16.
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