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Sun chips away at competition

Sun Microsystems will unveil a prototype of an updated UltraSparc chip that will double the speed of the previous generation.

The chip-manufacturing arm of Sun Microsystems will next week unveil a prototype of an updated UltraSparc chip that will double the speed of the previous generation and finally bring the company's processor performance in line with competitors.

Sun Microelectronics will show on April 8 a functional prototype of the UltraSparc-II with clock speeds up to 300 MHz, according to the company. The first UltraSparc-II chips will perform 3.5 times faster for business applications and 5.5 times faster in floating-point operations needed for scientific and engineering applications compared to a PC built around a 133-MHz Pentium.

The company has been under pressure to improve the performance of its processors, which are used in Sun's workstations and servers, both from other workstation vendors like Digital Equipment and Hewlett-Packard and high-end PC systems, which some PC systems vendors are even starting to call "personal workstations."

Sun claims that the UltraSparc processors have finally brought the company up to speed. "Even two years ago, we were really behind the eight ball in terms of performance. Now it's a dead heat between Alpha, HP, and us," a Sun spokeswoman said.

To maintain its edge, Sun is already planning on the UltraSparc-III for early 1998, a processor that could double Sparc performance again.

The company expects to start shipping samples of UltraSparc-II in late May with full production in the third quarter.

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