Sun Unveils $995 UNIX Workstation

Striving to capture the pricing advantage in an increasingly competitive market, Sun Microsystems Inc. Tuesday raised the curtain on a UNIX workstation priced at less than $1,000 — far and away the cheapest ever put on the market.

The basic configuration of the Sun Blade 100 will sell for $995, though customers will have to shell out a little more for additional features like a monitor or 3D graphics card.

Sun has been feeling a great deal of pressure in the market lately as manufacturers produce more-and-more powerful Wintel machines that come close to competing with basic UNIX workstations on the processing power front, while UNIX competitors squeeze it from the other end. But Sun is banking that the Sun Blade 100 will give it some room to maneuver by offering a product that is price-competitive with those offered by Wintel manufacturers and significantly undercuts its UNIX competitors. HewlettPackard Co.’s low-end workstation — the Sun Blade 100’s closest rival on the price front — has a price point exceeding $5,000.

The Sun Blade 100’s basic configuration features the 64-bit 500MHz UltraSparc IIe processor, the 64-bit Solaris 8 operating environment, 2GB ECC system memory, 128MB RAM, ATA66 disk subsystem with integrated controller functions supporting up to 2X15GB hard drives, 15GB hard drive, SunPGX64 onboard 2D graphics with 8MB SGRAM, 48X CDROM, and an integrated I/O which includes 10/100-BaseT Ethernet connection, four USB ports and two IEEE 1394 digital video “firewire” ports. It also comes with a software bundles including StarOffice 5.2, Netscape Navigator, Acrobat Reader, PC FileViewer and SunForum 3.1. Add-ons include the new Sun Expert3D-Lite graphics accelerator card and the SunPCi II coprocessor card, which allows the workstation to natively run Windows simultaneously.

“Sun set the price/performance bar in 1998 with the Sun Ultra 5 workstation, and now we’re doing it again with the Sun Blade 100 workstation,” said Fred Kohout, director of Marketing, Technical Market Products Group, Sun Microsystems. “We’re taking on the PC market on its home turf with price and performance. We’re not only offering UNIX users a great new workstation, but we are also giving PC users the last bit of incentive they need — a better price — to move over to our more powerful 64-bit Solaris operating environment.”

Sun also unveiled two promotional bundles Tuesday — one aimed at the software development market and the other at the digital content creation market. The first, the Sun Net Effect Development Stack, features a Sun Blade 100 workstation and a suite of development tools — including Forte for High Performance Computing, Forte for Java, a range of iPlanet tools and a one-year subscription to the Sun Developer Essentials Enterprise Edition. It also features the SunPCi II coprocessor card, all for $3,495. The second is a joint effort of Sun and Electric Image which offers a 3D animation package featuring the Sun Blade 100 workstation, the Sun Expert3D-Lite graphics board and Electric Image’s Universe animation software for $2,995.

“The Sun Blade 100 workstation with Sun Expert3D-Lite graphics should open new doors in markets which previously could not afford to develop in a UNIX environment,” said Kara Yokley, workstation research analyst, IDC. “Sun Microsystems’ strategy to offer 64-bit UNIX workstations at 32-bit PC prices has slowed the migration of technical users to Windows NT and helped Sun maintain its number one position in the UNIX market.”

The workstations are available directly from Sun or through its traditional sales channels. Customers ordering preconfigured systems through the Sun Store online can get four-day delivery in the U.S.

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