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IBM launches Pentium II Intellistations

The new Intellistation M Pro series closes the gap between IBM and other leading workstation vendors.

IBM rolled out a new line of PC workstations today based on the Pentium II processor, the latest move in the company's effort to reinvigorate its presence in the workstation world.

The new Intellistation M Pro series effectively closes the gap between IBM and other leading vendors in this market, according to Peter ffoulkes, workstation analyst at Dataquest.

IBM jumped into the NT workstation market in March, some six months behind Hewlett-Packard and others. While the delay meant fewer early customer wins, IBM has now synchronized its product releases with its main competitors and will likely begin to see increased market share.

IBM announced its first Pentium II Intellistations back in July. Previous models used the Pentium Pro chip.

"They entered the market late, but they've ramped up well," ffoulkes said. "This is a good midrange product," he added. "They are playing to the midrange, but not pushing the edge."

Along with the processor upgrade, other improvements include better graphics performance and lower prices, according to Satish Gupta, general manager of IBM professional workstations.

"You can buy an entry-level workstation with a monitor for under $4,000 now," he said, adding "The basic configuration is single-processor, with 64MB of memory and 4GB of storage going to 6GB."

So far, Intellistation customers have come in IBM's core workstation markets (computer automated design and finance) and in the segment of PC users graduating to more powerful workstations. A number of new wins, however, have come in the software design market.

The Intellistation M Pro, announced today, features one or two Pentium II processors running at 233 MHz, 266 MHz or 300 MHz as well as Intel's newest LX440 chipset. The chipset allows the machine to take advantage of the Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP), designed to allow for graphic images that are richer than those currently available on mainstream PCs and lower-priced workstations.

Basic configurations come with a hard disk capacity of 25GB and up to 128MB of synchcronous DRAM. Synchronous DRAM, or SDRAM, is designed to offer better performance than standard memory. For graphics, the Intellistation M Pro sports either a Permedia 2 card for 2D graphics or the Intergraph Intense 3D Pro2200/4T card with 20MB of on-card memory.

But the graphics capability is perhaps the Intellistation's largest weakness, said ffoulkes. IBM is using Intergraph's mass-market 3D solution, which is less powerful than the solution Intergraph uses in its own NT workstations. Similarly, HP's NT workstations outperform the Intellistation, according to ffoulkes. Both HP and Intergraph have released Pentium II workstations.

Gupta, however, said that the Intergraph board IBM uses is one of the company's top-of-the-line graphics components.

Pricing starts at $3,500. IBM is also offering a $500 rebate on machines bought with a P-Series monitor.

Earlier in the month, IBM released two new Unix workstations, including the RS/6000 Model 397, a workstation/server featuring the "Deep Blue" Power2 chip.