Silicon Graphics (SGI) said this week that it was considering developing a low end workstation based on Windows NT and Intel processors for release next year. This represents a U-turn from SGI's long standing assertion that Wintel is inappropriate in the technical workstation market it targets.
The company currently focuses on Risc-based workstations and servers running its own version of Unix, SG/UX.
However, SGI told analysts last week that it was evaluating the possibility of producing low end workstations running Windows NT on Intel's Pentium Pro chip, which - if given the go-ahead - would not be launched until the second half of 1998.
Chris Calvert, UK marketing director, said the company would only develop NT products if it could significantly differentiate them from the existing market offerings, by creating a hardware architecture with greater scalability and throughput than rivals'.
"We would not produce a vanilla NT product. There is no value in that for Silicon Graphics and it is not a religion thing about NT versus Unix. We have a $4 billion business with Unix and Risc and we do not see that changing any time soon," explained Calvert.
Calvert said SGI was evaluating an NT offering because of customer demand for a product at the low end, not because the company planned to enter the commodity computer market.
NT workstations would enable SGI to broaden its offering for the engineering market, which has traditionally been dominated by Unix workstations from vendors such as Sun, Digital and SGI itself. A small but growing section of this market is opting for Wintel workstations for basic applications because of their lower cost.
SGI's OpenGL graphics programming language is already licensed to over 50 vendors, including Intel and Compaq, and could be used on a variety of platforms, Calvert said.
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