SGI's expansion comes as the Unix workstation's sales growth is being eclipsed by workstations based on Microsoft's Windows NT operating system, according to a recent study by International Data Corporation. However, analysts say that NT offers much narrower profit margins than Unix, and the latter still offers superior performance for high-end workstations.
"You might ship more NT systems, but you've got lower margins, so you don't make as much money. Unix is still the bread and butter for these guys," said IDC analyst Keren Seymour.
Additionally, she said, "There are still problems that can't be solved with NT. Anything requiring a lot of data just won't work on NT. You don't design cars and plans on NT. You build them on Unix."
SGI is introducing the 250-MHz Octane/MXE workstation with a 250-MHz MIPS RISC R10000 microprocessor. According to SGI, this workstation runs manufacturing, design, and graphics software significantly faster than comparable Sun workstations.
All Octane workstations can be upgraded to the new RISC processor. The entry-level 250-MHz Octane/MXE workstations featuring the RISC processor will be shipping this quarter for $24,995. Octane/MXE workstations with additional graphics capabilities will start at $47,995.
SGI also announced price cuts on its entry-level Octane workstations. The price of a 175-MHz Octane/SI workstation is being cut to $13,908, for a system with a standard 4GB hard disk, 128MB of memory, and a 20-inch monitor.
Despite the relatively high price, today's announcement is very good news for SGI, said Dataquest analyst Peter ffoulkes. "They're doing all the right things," he said. "This is a very good announcement for SGI."