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Sun Ultras get 300-MHz chip

Mindful of NT workstations, Sun Microsystems bolsters its high-performance Unix lineup while cutting prices on some older models by 30 percent.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) has introduced new workstations with a 300-MHz UltraSparc-II processor to bolster its high-performance lineup while cutting prices on older workstations by as much as 30 percent.

The company cut prices on older Ultra and SparcStation workstations as a part of a continuing effort to thwart the growing popularity of the so-called "personal workstations," typically running Windows NT. Sun, the leading Unix workstation vendor, cut prices last November; it was followed in January by No. 2 Unix workstation vendor Hewlett-Packard, which cut prices on its workstations by up to 41 percent.

Personal workstations generally use Intel Pentium Pro processors and run the Windows NT operating system, while workstations such as the Ultra 2 run Unix and use RISC processors such as the UltraSparc chip. These high-powered systems are used in computer-assisted design and in engineering, financial analysis, and software development.

According to IDC Research, last year personal workstations outsold traditional Unix workstations for the first time, and sales of the systems are expected to continue to grow.

Sun is countering the NT threat in two ways--lower prices and higher performance. The company says manufacturing efficiencies will allow Sun to drop prices on the older Ultra 2 Model 1200 and Ultra 1 Model 170e. The Ultra 2 Model 1200 with 128MB memory, 4GB hard drive and 20-inch monitor has had its price reduced from $26,495 to $20,995, or 23 percent. The Ultra 1 Model 170e with with 128MB memory, 2GB hard drive and 20-inch monitor was cut from $18,495 to $12,995, a drop of 30 percent.

Sun thinks the performance of its new Ultra 2 workstations will entice users to stay with Unix, too. The company claims that the new 300-MHz systems, the Model 1300 and Model 2300, will offer a 30 percent performance boost over the Ultra workstations with 200-MHz UltraSparc processor.

The new systems will also be offered at the same price as the former top-of-the-line models. The Model 1300 and 2300 will be priced at $26,495 and $38,495, respectively, with a special 3D graphics accelerator available for another $1000. No availability date was announced.

In related news, Sun announced that the Ultra 1 Model 170 will replace the Model 140. The Model 170 has a faster processor but an identical system architecture. It will sell for $9,195, 8 percent below the Model 140s price. Also, the Sparcstation 5 with a 20-inch monitor will now sell for $5,895, down from $6,895.

Sun said it will also lower prices for a number of graphics and monitor options.