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Sun to Offer Sub-$1,000 Workstation

Sun Microsystems has created a new workstation for computer-aided design engineers and software developers that has a lower entry cost point than competing machines.

Sun's position with engineers who do graphic models for scientific visualization and representations of jet engines and the like is nothing new. The company has shipped more than one million workstations in the multi-billion-dollar space. Without the powerful computers, it's hard to visualize and map out high-performance computing projects for scientific research.

Now, Sun is looking to differentiate itself from traditional machines by offering the new Sun Ultra 20 workstation at a starting price of $895. The entry price is less than competing workstations from IBM, Dell or HP, which generally start at a few thousand dollars, said Sun Executive Vice President John Fowler.

"We're generating performance and technical capabilities at a much lower price point and in that we can drive higher volumes [of sales]," Fowler said.

In addition to Sun's Solaris operating system, the Ultra 20 is fitted with "an awesome software bundle" of Java developer tools, Fowler added. It includes Sun Studio 10, Sun Java Studio Enterprise 7 and Sun Java Studio Creator 2004, together worth thousands of dollars.

The software is preinstalled, which enables plug and play with the hardware. It also supports Windows and various flavors of Linux, so as not to lock folks into Solaris.

Fowler said the software is part of Sun's attempt to tempt even more developers.

"It's not done to go and make piles of money," Fowler said. "It's about enabling a developer to create applications which, then downstream, can result in other opportunities for us."

As far as hardware is concerned, Ultra 20 is powered by AMD Opteron chips and propped up by half a terabyte of internal storage. Hardware support includes NVIDIA Quadro PCI-Express graphics boards and PCI-Express media and communications processors.

The Santa Clara, Calif., company also introduced the Sun Ultra 3 mobile workstation based on the UltraSPARC processor for mobile computing.

Equipped with UltraSPARC processors, Ultra 3 is also pre-loaded with Solaris 10 and is geared to help developers, government agencies and system administrators to run the same applications as stationary machines but can be taken on the go. Entry-level pricing for the Sun Ultra 3 Mobile Workstation is $3,400.

Both machines will be available in July.

Meanwhile, service-oriented architectures (SOA) and free software development tools are expected to be some of the big splashes at the JavaOne conference, which kicks off this week in San Francisco.

Sun, BEA Systems, Borland and Oracle are also making developer-oriented announcements.